This season the Flyers welcomed in-arena host Alex Kraemer to South Philly. We ask her how her first season went and what’s next.
Going into the 2015-16 season, Flyers fans knew they were in for some massive changes to their favorite hockey club. Ron Hextall was going into his second year as GM, new coach Dave Hakstol was in his first year as a head coach in the NHL and the roster was in for some big adjustments.
Change was in the air and it even filtered down to the stands.
In October the Flyers announced that Alex Kraemer would join the organization as the new in-arena host. Odds are that if you went to a Flyers game at the Wells Fargo Center this past season, you saw Alex in the stands interviewing fans or at Flyers promotional events in the Philly area.
Alex comes to Philly via Georgia, where she was a rinkside reporter for the Atlanta Gladiators doing pre and post-game interviews. She has only been living in Philadelphia for a little over half a year, but she seems to have made it through her first Philly winter and Flyers season in one piece.
Alex was nice enough to answer a few questions for the Philly Sports Cave about adjusting to a huge market like Philly, dealing with Flyers fans and her thoughts on next season.
Philly Sports Cave: Did you grow up a hockey fan, or are you new to the sport?
Alex Kraemer: I would say, “technically”, I am fairly new to the sport, but that doesn’t diminish my passion for or knowledge of it. Hockey is definitely very rare in the south (our NHL team even picked up and moved to Canada!), so it’s not normal to “grow up” knowing the sport. I played elite soccer until college (injury). I think that really helped me make the transition to hockey; there are many similarities between soccer and hockey: the intensity, speed, structure, formations, etc. When I got the job with the Atlanta Gladiators, I spent two months studying hockey, learning the lingo, watching footage, etc. I wanted to know the ins and outs the best I could. I ended up not only conducting all pre and post-game player interviews, but also writing all press releases for the team. I watched each game like a hawk, and learned something new every game. And trust me, a player knows if you don’t truly know the sport, so I wanted to make sure I asked intelligent questions. My love of the sport has grown immensely, and hockey has literally become my absolute favorite sport without question!
PSC: You come to Philadelphia via the University of Georgia and the Atlanta area. Why in God’s name would you leave to move to someplace like Philly?
Kraemer: I worked for the Atlanta Gladiators as I was finishing my Masters degree at UGA, and knew I wanted to continue working in hockey, and obviously at the top level, the NHL. This opportunity came up, and I was offered the position after trying-out preseason, and it wasn’t even a question. I didn’t even take a second thought; jumping from the ECHL straight to the NHL in one of the biggest markets, was a dream come true. I wanted to work for a large franchise with passionate fans, and the Flyers were number one on that list. I packed up, left my life in Atlanta and moved up here within days of officially being given the position, and made my dream of working in the NHL a reality.
PSC: Did your previous work reporting for the Atlanta Gladiators prepare you for all or the craziness of the Flyers and the NHL?
Kraemer: As far as speaking in a massive arena, the Gladiators definitely prepared me for that. Their arena is close to the size of the Wells Fargo Center. However, nothing can prepare for the craziness of Flyers fans! The game night production and “show” is without a doubt on a much bigger scale in the NHL and with the Flyers, compared to an ECHL team, like the Gladiators.
PSC: Flyers fans are known to be devoted and passionate group of people. Did you find that to be true during the season?
Kraemer: Oh without question. Every fan knows everything about every player, past and present. They scream the entire game and come up with loud and abrasive chants for certain opposing players. Our own players will KNOW if the fans approve of their play too (they aren’t afraid to take out frustration on their own team). The parking lots and streets are packed with orange and black before and long after every single game. They appreciate everyone who is a part of the team, and I was overwhelmed by the kind words and compliments I received on a nightly basis from fans. The outpouring opinions on social media sites, blogs, etc is also unreal. Flyers fans, without a doubt, are extremely passionate about the team, and nobody could ever argue against that.
PSC: Be completely honest: what did you think when you experienced your first Flyers game?
Kraemer: My first Flyers game was the very first preseason game this season against the Rangers, and I just got thrown into the fire. It was pretty unreal. Even for a preseason game, I don’t recall that there were many empty seats; the place was PACKED and the noise level was incredible. By the time the puck dropped, I knew I was amongst some of the biggest sports fans in the country.
PSC: What are your thoughts on the now infamous Bracelet Incident?
Kraemer: It just showed the passion of Flyers fans. I was right in the heart of it, as I was standing ice-level at the Zamboni tunnel, and bracelets were being thrown down all around me. It’s definitely not something you want the hockey world to remember you by; you have millions of eyes on your team and your city during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and I think the fans’ frustration could have been taken out a different way. It was the night we honored Ed Snider, and I personally do not think it was the “correct” way to handle a loss. The Capitals even stated that it gave them a boost, loving that they could garner such a reaction from an opposing team’s fans. Did it show passion? Yes. Was it embarrassing? Yes.
PSC: What was your best and worst experiences during your first season as the Flyers in-arena host?
Kraemer: Honestly, as cliché as it sounds, it’s really hard to pick one best experience this season. Each and every game was different and so much fun; I was so happy to be a part of the fans’ experience at each home game. But beating the Penguins to clinch our playoff spot was pretty unreal, and so was taking the shootout victory over the number one Capitals (I think I lost my voice screaming on that win!).
Losing to the Capitals in Game 6, after coming back three games down, was obviously the worst experience; it ended our season and I just was not ready to be done. Seeing the guys hunched over on the ice after the 1-0 loss was hard to witness, I was definitely very upset myself. It was an awful feeling.
PSC: Hot seat time: how do you think the Flyers will do next season?
Kraemer: I think the Flyers will do even better next season. Considering this was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year we made it to playoffs, so I definitely see the team going far. We have a lot of prospects, who have size, speed, and proven scoring abilities, that have a chance to make an appearance on the roster. We will also have standout players, like Gostisbehere, on the roster the entire season. The summer also gives some injured players a chance to recoup and come back in October at full-strength. It’s really exciting to think about the upcoming season!
PSC: Do you see yourself getting into reporting and broadcasting at some point?
Kraemer: Yes, definitely! My goal is to become a sports reporter on network television. I love talking sports: statistics, comparing players/teams, breaking down a game, etc. so it would be the ideal job for me. I am going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
PSC: Now that you’ve been here a little while, what do you think of Philly and its crazy to the point of obsessed sports culture?
Kraemer: I love it! I am SO competitive, and love sports, so being in a city that understands that, and has such a passion for teams, is amazing! I love seeing fans take every win and loss to heart; they really and truly care about the players and teams, and that is just how I am, so it’s nice to be surrounded by people who empathize with your elation of a big win, and in your heartache of a loss.
More Flyers: Flyers Week In Review: The Fat Lady Finally Sang
It would appear Philadelphia has a new fan and everyone has a new reason to head out to see a Flyers game live and in-person.