'I feel like I'm a part of them' — Nolan, Flyers fans celebrate a bond from birth


Lou Nolan remembers seeing a billboard displaying the soon-to-be-birthed Flyers along Route 42 as he headed to Margate City, New Jersey.

"I used to go down there and chase girls with Joe Kadlec, he was the first PR man," Nolan said Saturday. "And I said, 'Oh, boy, there's going to be a hockey team here.' Joe and I became friends and that's how I started."

The rest has been history.

Nolan, a Flyers lifer, will be celebrated Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center in a pregame ceremony honoring his 50th year as the organization's iconic public address announcer. The beloved Philadelphia native has worked for the Flyers since the inception of the franchise. He served as a press box assistant during the inaugural 1967-68 season and then worked in the club's public relations before becoming the PA announcer, a role he has held since 1972.

He has seen it all, his voice synonymous with the Flyers name and logo.

"I remember the first one I did like it was yesterday; like I started when I was 3 years old," Nolan said with a laugh.

"I am so honored and so excited about this. You don't know, you don't know."

Nolan, who fell in love with the game by watching the Philadelphia Ramblers, a minor-league team, witnessed the city fall in love with its Flyers. He mentioned how Flyers fans learned the game from Gene Hart, the organization's first-ever announcer and broadcaster. Founded and fueled by Ed Snider, the Flyers discovered their identity with back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.


"The way that people in Philadelphia took to this team was amazing," Nolan said. "Fans understood that it was a group that was not anything other than a lunch-pail group of guys who came together after a couple of years and managed to win Cups. Winning helps. To win two in a row is really hard to do.

"You take a chance and draft a guy like Bob Clarke and then everybody follows him because he never stops. Never stops."

Nolan, too, has never stopped. His devotion to the Flyers will rightfully be saluted Saturday night.

"I've been in the league long enough that you are very, very familiar with Lou and obviously his voice," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said. "So symbolic of the Flyers and the history of the Flyers.

"Just seems like a tremendous person to go along with all the hard work that he's done."

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Three days ago, the Flyers held their annual team picture at center ice of the Wells Fargo Center. They had a section of longtime season-ticket members sit in the stands for some of the shots.

Afterward, Nolan made his way up into the stands to greet those fans one by one.

"Season-ticket holders are the reason that I'm sitting here," Nolan said. "If we didn't have people like that, season-ticket members, you guys wouldn't be doing your job right here, I wouldn't be here — there might not be a hockey team.

"The dedication to do it, through good and bad — I mean, there have been great years. I talked to a couple of people there that are there for 55 years. 'Whoa, man, you've had your tickets this long?' It was amazing.

"And what's nice about it is that I get along with all of them. They're friends, they're friends. I see them in hallways, I see them in elevators. It's a great thing. ... I would probably be one were I not involved like this, frankly. Because my love for the sport began before the first puck was dropped in 1967. I would probably be there, too. I feel like I'm a part of them. They're my friends."

Impressively, Nolan overcame a fear of public speaking, which he had in his early days of high school, en route to being the Flyers' voice.

"He's always made my family feel welcomed," Scott Laughton said. "He's always asking about my parents and they're always talking before games. I think that's one thing that stands out, he always makes people feel welcomed. To do that for 50 years, I think he's the best in the league."

Nolan was asked what his message would be to Flyers fans who have grown frustrated by the team's back-to-back playoff-less seasons, something that hadn't happened since 1992-93 and 1993-94.

"My message would be I understand because I, indeed, share their frustration," he said. "However, I would say, what's been evidenced by the last week, 10 days or so, when young players — they're really young, out of college — come in and begin to learn the game, what they've done here, I think there are a lot better times ahead.


"If you say, OK, well, injuries. 'Everybody has injuries.' It's true, but when they're to key players, they hurt a lot.

"When you can get young players who are able to jump in — and fit in — it's really important."

It's important for the Flyers and their fans to recognize someone like Nolan. They're proud to do so.

During warmups Saturday night, the Flyers will wear special jerseys to celebrate Nolan, while their game sweaters will feature a commemorative patch.

Nolan was blown away by the gesture.

"I said, 'Good Lord, they're going to put No. 50 on jerseys and my name on the back?' I mean, who'd ever think that?" he said. "I'm the kid from Southwest Philly that went to the Ramblers and played street hockey. It doesn't compute. But I tried to earn it. I guess I have."

He sure did.

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