PHILADELPHIA - Brian and Jennifer Petruzzi’s bus has an Eagles-themed design on one side and a Flyers theme on the other.
Since the Eagles have been irrelevant since at least November, the 34-year old Galloway Township residents and their friends have been waiting anxiously for the Flyers’ season to start. With the 113-day NHL lockout over, they were ready Saturday.
“It’s very exciting,” Brian Petruzzi said Saturday, about two hours before the Flyers opened their season with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center. “I definitely missed it. It was a disappointing Eagles season, so I’ve been waiting for this since Week 8 of the Eagles.”
The Petruzzis own the YoGo Factory frozen yogurt chain. They bought the bus before last season, replacing an older one that they had for one year.
They have season tickets to both the Flyers and Eagles, but while they tailgate for every Eagles game, the bus usually only comes to Flyers playoff games.
Saturday was an exception though. This was the first Flyers game in eight months due to the lockout. When the schedule came out and the opener was against the archrival Penguins on a Saturday afternoon, there was no question that the bus was coming to this one.
“I cleared my schedule, for sure,” said Jennifer Petruzzi, who wore a large, Mummers-style orange headdress.
Eight people rode the bus to Saturday’s game. Sometimes the Petruzzis take Yogo Factory employees, but this time it was all their friends.
“It’s always a good time, so everybody was jockeying for position to get here,” said Jerry Barnhart, 43, an Egg Harbor Township resident and a lieutenant in the Atlantic City Police Department. “We’ve got a very nice setup.”
In addition to food and drinks — the bus has a full bar inside — there were plenty of games at their tailgate. Some friends played NHL13 on one of the three Xbox 360s inside the bus, and later they set up a game of street hockey in the parking lot.
They started playing street hockey at tailgates two years ago and had so much fun that they now play every Wednesday in the Petruzzis’ backyard, even during winter.
“We won’t go that intense today because we’ve got women, but sometimes we bring full goalie gear and everything,” Brian said.
A few last-minute preparations were necessary for this tailgate.
The driver’s side of the bus features large images of Flyers stars such as Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. But Petruzzi had to bring the bus to Car Toyz in Pleasantville to have James van Riemsdyk, who was traded in the offseason, replaced with Sean Couturier.
“You want someone that’s going to be on the team for a while, and JVR, I thought was that,” Brian said. “Hopefully Danny’s there for another year or two. It depends on whether he plays defense or not. And if not, (Scott) Hartnell will probably go in that spot.”
The Eagles side features Michael Vick, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, so Brian said he likely will have to redo that entire side.
The Petruzzis keep the bus at their home in Galloway Township.
“I’ve cleared out a long spot on my driveway and I’ve got 20-foot pine trees so that my neighbors don’t get annoyed with it, so you can’t see it,” Brian said.
Their bus appeared to be the only one of its kind in the parking lot as of 1 p.m. Saturday, though there were thousands of fans tailgating well before the scheduled 3 p.m. start time (it started about 3:35).
“My favorite part about tailgating would be excitement for the game itself, obviously hanging out with friends and just the whole sheer experience of all the Philly fans and how everybody is so into it, better than any other team out there,” Jennifer said.
If they have their way, the Petruzzis will bring the bus back to the Wells Fargo Center many more times this season — for the playoffs.
“(The lockout) was tough, but I think our team’s built well for this kind of short sprint, so I think they’ll be good,” Brian said.
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