How one Flyers fan was among the return of Penguins fans in Pittsburgh


Ray Woodland, a Flyers fan from Northeast Philadelphia, is grateful for Penguins fans.

At least he was the moment he got word fans would be permitted back at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena in a limited capacity starting with Tuesday night's game.

Glance at the schedule: Flyers are in town.

*Instantly picks up phone, texts Pittsburgh fan random compliment as icebreaker.*

Jokes aside, Woodland did not have to slyly find a way into PPG Paints Arena to watch his Flyers play. A 40-year-old who works in the telecommunications industry, Woodland has lived in Pittsburgh for 11 years now. Naturally, many of his friends are Penguins fans. He has grown to appreciate residing in enemy territory.

"I absolutely love the rivalry between the Flyers and Pens," Woodland said Tuesday in an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I constantly get my balls busted at work, from friends or fellow beer league players, for being a Flyers fan. We're all hockey fans and it just adds to the excitement of the game when pretty much everyone that I communicate with on a daily basis hates the Flyers."

Woodland was ecstatic one of those friends liked him enough to bring him along for Tuesday's rivalry-flavored return to the stands. Fan admission for the Flyers-Penguins game was on a priority basis to season-ticket holders only. Tickets are also available on for non-season-ticket holders. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday night marked Pittsburgh's first home game with fans since March 8, 2020.

"I started brainstorming how I could get one of my Penguins season-ticket holder connections to take me to the game," Woodland said. "Luckily, a beer league friend of mine invited me to the game. I’m thrilled that fans are back, even at a limited capacity — at least we're trending in the right direction."

Woodland, rocking his 2012 Winter Classic Claude Giroux jersey, had no qualms sitting among a mostly Penguins contingent of 2,800 fans. He was just happy to be back in stadium seats watching a game again. Woodland and his friend enjoyed the action from the lower level in section 119 and were shown on the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast.

"A Giroux fan there," Keith Jones said on the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast. "Doesn't have a great choice of friends, but we'll let him go."

Woodland's friend enjoyed the last laugh as the Penguins rolled the Flyers, 5-2.

As both experienced a taste of normalcy, unsurprisingly things were different. Woodland said at one point the PPG Paints Arena public address announcer asked fans to please refrain from high fives. Interestingly, Woodland said in order to buy a beer, he had to purchase some type of food along with it.

He also couldn't help but laugh at the weirdness of a less-than-quarter-filled arena coinciding with convenience.

"No lines to get in, no waiting in the bathroom," Woodland said. "Need popcorn or a beer, just walk up and get it."

That's something Flyers and Penguins fans can high five to — er, agree on.

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