Philadelphia Flyers fans return to Wells Fargo Center

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A limited number of Philadelphia Flyers fans were finally allowed back into the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced sweeping changes to professional sports.

The crowd was smaller but it was loud and energetic, making up for a year of not being able to cheer on their team. Fans said as soon as they heard tickets were available they grabbed them.

"We've always been die-hard Philly fans, and once we heard they'll let us back in, we immediately knew we had to go to the game," said Derek Swayze of Glassboro, New Jersey.

Gritty was there waiting as 3,100 fans made their way into the Wells Fargo Center to watch the Flyers take on the Washington Capitals.

Flyers fans chanted "Let's Go Flyers! Let's Go Flyers!" early in the contest, something you could hear with just an artificial soundtrack up to this point this season. They loudly booed and directed catcalls at the officials after Travis Konecny was whistled for goaltender interference in the first period.

During a stoppage in the second period, they saluted Oskar Lindblom, who returned to the ice this season after battling cancer for much of last season, with a loud ovation

"March 10th was the last time there was a home game. We've been season ticket holders, we just couldn't wait to get back into the stadium. Our kids grew up here so it's awesome to have them back in here," said Shaun Long of Middletown, Delaware.

Officials say they have put a lot of precautions in place, including touchless ticket scanning and concessions, spaced-out seats in the stands, and mask-wearing unless you're eating or drinking at your seat.

"We understand there might be moments when the mask might slip down, we're going to use common sense about it. There's going to be a low tolerance for not wearing a mask and not adhering to that policy," said Phil Laws, the building general manager at the Wells Fargo Center.

SEE ALSO: Bucks County Flyers fan in hospice care gets special invite to Sunday's game
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On Sunday, the Wells Fargo Center will welcome back Flyers fans for the first time in nearly a year. The game will have special meaning for one Bucks County family.

Russell Thompson, 78, has never missed a home opener. The dedicated fan, who is now in end-stage heart failure and receiving hospice care, was invited to Sunday's game.

"He's situated great. He can see everything. He's in his bed, which we're very thankful for. We didn't have to take him out of his bed. So, he's comfortable, he's happy. We're very thankful," said Thompson's daughter, Judy Uragano during Sunday's game.

Flyers coach Alain Vigneault was also excited to have the support.

"There's no doubt having fans and feeling their emotion and their energy will be a boost for us," Vigneault said prior to the game.

Despite the return of fans, the Flyers couldn't pull off a win, getting defeated by the Capitals 3-1. The team will host Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at home.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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