There will be no brotherly love from Philly fans

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:03 PM ET


  The Maple Leafs now move from a palace of politeness, where the fans nibble on sushi and applaud on command like trained seals, to a den of angst and attitude.

 For the Leafs to win the Eastern Conference semi-final, they have to win at least one game at the Wachovia Center, the Philadelphia Flyers' home barn. That will be a tall order.

 Philly fans are said to be some of the loudest and most intimidating in North America. And while pro hockey players insist that there is no intimidation factor playing on the road, it should be said that, in Philly especially, the fans can make life miserable for the visiting squad.

 Toronto lost the opening two games of the series in Pennsylvania while winning Games 3 and 4 at the Air Canada Centre.

 Both teams receive excellent support at home, but there is a difference. Wachovia crowds are noisier and get on the visiting players a lot more. Case in point: The relentless and sarcastic chants of "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" aimed at Toronto goaltender Ed Belfour, in Games 1 and 2.

 Sure, the ACC faithful responded by jeering Philly goaltender Robert Esche. But the chant so much quieter, it sounded as if they were serenading him.

 The crowd at the ACC will go for long stretches sitting on their hands, until the scoreboard urges noise. And as they did in the regular season, the fans sitting in the platinum section can't get back to their seats in time for the start of each period.

 Still, the Leafs had nothing but nice things to say about the fans support for Games 3 and 4 and insisted that it made a difference.

 "They've been great," defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "They're just another member of our team. It's great to see out there. Guys feed off it. I know I do."

 Leafs coach Pat Quinn acknowledged that home crowds give teams a boost, but added there are other factors involved -- routine, the luxury of eating and sleeping at your own home, and having the final line change. Philly coach Ken Hitchcock used that well in Games 1 and 2 when he put big centre Keith Primeau on Mats Sundin.

 "All of those factors can make someone of a difference," Quinn said.


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