flyers women
Janis Rittenhouse shows off the Flyers merchandise she has collected over the years at her home in the Pomona section of Galloway Township. Ben Fogletto

If a fan's passion guaranteed victory, Janis Rittenhouse have the Philadelphia Flyers hoisting the Stanley Cup every spring.

Rittenhouse, who lives in the Pomona section of Galloway Township, has rituals that include not washing her jersey during the playoffs and crossing her toes, fingers and hands during games. And while these efforts didn't keep the Flyers from dropping the first two games of this year's finals, the defeats did not lower the volume of Rittenhouse's shouts of encouragement.

Hockey is a rough sport, filled with body checks and brawls. But as the Flyers fight for a Stanley Cup win, many fans cheering them on - such as Rittenhouse - are female.

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Twenty-five percent of the Flyers' season ticket holders are women, said Brian Smith, the Flyers' public relations assistant.

For the first two rounds of the Stanley Cups playoffs, women viewers increased 15 percent over last year, research by the National Hockey League shows.

Sports bar managers in Atlantic County say more women visit area sports bars to watch Flyers hockey or Phillies baseball than Eagles football or 76ers basketball.

Women are such an important part of the Flyers' audience that the team has held Women's Hockey 101 classes to teach female fans the basics of the game, Smith said.

If only the Flyers could have heard Rittenhouse screaming "come on" at the television inside Chickie's and Pete's sports bar in Egg Harbor Township, they might not have fallen so tantalizingly shy in two one-goal losses to the Chicago Blackhawks. But win or lose, Rittenhouse maintains 100 percent faith in her team.

"Some of my friends on Facebook, they text me every now and again. They keep saying, 'We can't believe you just never gave up hope. Look at where we are.' I told them, 'You have to have faith, and I do,' " said Rittenhouse, 51.

Rittenhouse uses Facebook to reach fellow female Flyers fans, most of whom are at least a generation younger than her.

Many of the female fans are drawn to the Flyers because of forwards Claude Giroux, Arron Asham and Daniel Carcillo.

"Almost all the girls have crushes on those three players, but they still talk hockey. We talk defense. We talk clearing the puck out of the zone, and we talk kicking somebody's butt," said Rittenhouse, who traces her own fascination with the team to her discovery as a teenager that Flyer Bobby Clarke lived around the corner from her home in Mount Ephraim, Camden County. She used to walk by his house daily after high school.

It was romance of a different sort that got Jennifer Petruzzi, 31, interested in hockey.

Her future husband, Brian, introduced her to the game in 1996.

For the past seven years, the Petruzzis watched games on television. But Jennifer Petruzzi developed her own enthusiasm for the Flyers after attending a few games last year. The couple now has ice row tickets for the current season.

"This season is probably the most amazing season I will see until I'm 60," said Petruzzi, of Galloway Township. "I'm all about it. I am obsessed with the Flyers. ... This year is just the best season. I'm hooked for life."

An Eagles fan, Petruzzi has been to football games, but she likes the Flyers more than the Eagles now.

One reason for the hockey allegiance is that Petruzzi enjoys attending hockey games more than football games.

"Boys and men are much rowdier (at Eagles games)," Petruzzi said.

The Flyers attract many couples inside the Wachovia Center, which holds about 20,000 people, compared to the close to 70,000 people who jam Lincoln Financial Field for Eagles games.

"I kind of feel that you can get more involved (at Wachovia). You kind of feel more a part of it," said Petruzzi.

Family ties of another sort are responsible for some women following the Flyers.

Rebecca E. Rocks, 21, of the Scullville section of Egg Harbor Township, was introduced to hockey by her father.

Rocks' father was born in 1958. He was 16 and 17 years old and living in Philadelphia when the Flyers won their first two and only Stanley Cup trophies in 1974 and 1975. He and his buddies started the first ice hockey team at Frankford High School in Philadelphia.

He was 31 when his daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1989.

"My dad introduced me to hockey. I grew up watching sports with him, and when we were younger, he used to take us to the Boardwalk Bullies games," said Rocks about the professional hockey team that made its home at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City from 2001 to 2005. "I only started watching it because of him, and he is a huge Flyers fan, so it rubbed off on me."

Nicole Badurina, of Koch Avenue in Galloway Township, also was introduced to hockey by her father, who grew up being a Flyers fan, but her fandom may exceed his at this point.

Badurina was 10 when her father took her to her first Flyers game in 1991.

"During the regular hockey season, I will watch every Flyers game. If I am unable to watch it the night they play, I will record it and watch it the following night," said Badurina, 29, who calls defenseman Chris Pronger her favorite player.

Some of Badurina's girlfriends love the Flyers as much as she does.

"My girlfriends get a kick out of me loving this sport so much. Some will call me just to say, 'You'll be proud of me. I just turned on the Flyers,' " Badurina said. "Our girls night out consists of throwing on our jerseys and heading to the local sports bar to watch the game or even go to one live."

When the Flyers play, women make up 30 percent of the crowd inside the three-year-old Tailgaters Galloway Sports Grille on the White Horse Pike in Galloway Township, owner Ari Frangias said.

"She's (Badurina) been coming here since Day 1. I know her passion," Frangias said. "She is here to watch once or twice a week."

People have more of an opportunity to attend a Flyers game than an Eagles game because hockey is more affordable, said Chris Wilkerson, the general manager of Chickie's and Pete's on the Black Horse Pike. This fact also may make hockey more appealing to women than football.

During the regular season, $30 will pay for a ticket to a Flyers game, Wilkerson said. The cheapest Eagles ticket is $70.

The people without tickets for tonight's game will be gathering around the televisions in their neighborhood sports bar or in their homes.

Rittenhouse will either be inside Chickie's and Pete's or at home.

A medical transcriber, Rittenhouse will post on Facebook the question, "Are you ready for some playoff hockey?" She will drink one-and-a-half Bud Light Lime beers, a new superstition that started during the last few games of the regular season.

Multiple times today, when her team comes up, she will end the conversation with her favorite words, "Let's go Flyers."

Contact Vincent Jackson:


Where to watch

The Flyers face the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals at 8 tonight in Philadelphia. The game will air on the Versus cable TV channel.

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