You can tiptoe into the shallow water, or you can dive right into the deep end.
In Philadelphia, the Wings were looking to make a big splash.
Following a four-year absence from the National Lacrosse League, Philadelphia returned to prominence as an expansion franchise last year and took on the same name of the team that played in the City of Brotherly Love from the humble beginnings of the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League in 1987 until the franchise moved to New England to become the Black Wolves in 2014.
It’s safe to say, after just one season, the Wings are back in a big way.
“We brought the excitement back to one of the best franchises there ever were,” Wings General Manager and Head Coach Paul Day said. “Fans came back to the building. We were top-five in attendance, which is where we wanted to be.”
The numbers don’t lie.
The Wings finished fifth in league attendance this season as 98,147 fans walked through the Wells Fargo Center’s gates, averaging 10,905 in Philly’s nine regular season games.
The Wings played an aggressive offensive style and scored 218 goals in 18 games — the fourth highest in the league. Kiel Matisz and Kevin Crowley proved to be an excellent one-two scoring punch, tying for the team lead in points with 82 and both finishing in the top-20 in league scoring.
Matt Rambo, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, finished second in rookie scoring with 26 goals and 30 assists. Fellow newcomer Trevor Baptiste broke the NLL’s single-season faceoff record with 362 winning draws. Best of all, the Wings formed a strong foundation in the locker room.
“We’ve built a culture internally with this group,” Day said. “And I think that comes with the leadership of Jordan Hall, Kiel Matisz and Kevin Crowley. We’ve got a really good base and a really good building block for the future in Philadelphia.”
The Wings finished 4-14 on the season, which was admittedly a disappointment, despite being a new club. The glaring hole was the inability to finish off tight games. Philadelphia was 3-5 when leading after three quarters. Day said an answer to that problem is high on his offseason shopping list.
“I think it comes down to experience,” he said. “And a lot of our players haven’t had that experience in the National Lacrosse League. They’ve had experience in college or junior lacrosse or Canadian Box but it’s a different animal in the National Lacrosse League. With that being said, we’re going to go after some free agents with experience. We were one of the lowest payrolls in the league last year and we plan on spending some money and trying to get some more experience and some more leadership in that room.”
Backed by a strong ownership group in the Philadelphia Flyers, the Wings have the tools and the strong fan support to attract those free agents.
“The great thing was the great fans that were there before, came back,” Day said. “And there’s a lot of new fans, which is very important. We were welcome with open arms and I think the people really appreciated having the team back and we really appreciated the support.”