Mon Jun 07 08:13pm EDT
Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals provided us with one of the most memorably disturbing fan images of the playoffs: That Philadelphia Flyers fan celebrating a goal by waving around an impaled Indian head with graffiti scribbled on its face, captured by VERSUS cameras.
Who would do this?
Why would he do this?
And did the Chicago Blackhawks fans sitting in the rows around him at Wachovia Center mind the, uh, lighthearted display of team spirit?
Well, his name is Jim Melchionna, from Turnersville, N.J., and his Game 4 experience went beyond gruesome props for the TV cameras. Way, way beyond, in fact — into an adventure that included partying with former Flyers Cup champions and an awkward run-in with an NHL owner.
Oh, and he's not a Flyers fan, either. Allow us to explain.
His friend scored tickets to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Friday night in Philadelphia. Jim was thrilled to have the chance to see championship-round playoff action, and was going to make the most of the opportunity.
Which meant digging out his impaled Indian head from storage.
"I'm a big Philadelphia Eagles fan, so I actually take the head to the Redskins games. It was never even meant to be for the Blackhawks," he said. "And when the Cowboys come to town, I put a cowboy hat on it and write 'Deadboys.'"
Cowboys, Deadboys. Redskins, Deadskins. And now Blackhawks, Deadhawks.
The head cost him $10 at a party store. The knife was $2 at Wal-Mart. The various costumes, including the headdress from Game 4, were also party store purchases.
"Sometimes I have a hard time getting it into the Linc [for Eagles games] with the security guards. So I'll take the knife out of its head, show'em it's plastic and then stick it back in," said Jim, a loving father who works at a nuclear plant.
He was heading to the car for the trip to Game 4 when panic struck him. "I don't have the [expletive] head," he thought.
So he commissioned his family to spring into action, barking out "find the head, find the head!" Soon his daughter was tossing items from a sweltering shed in the backyard in the hopes of finding it.
"I found it, I found it!" was the call from the yard, as Jim grabbed the head, wiped away some spider webs and made his way to the game.
At the arena, Jim used his prop like a demented puppeteer. Like the time he and his head tried to make an appearance in a Chicago fan photograph.
"I'm underneath the escalators after getting a bite to eat, and there's these two Blackhawks fans getting their picture taken with a guy in a suit. So I sneak up behind them and put the head up. The women who was taking the picture was like 'GET OUT OF THERE.' And one of the Blackhawks fans turned around and said 'GET THE [EXPLETIVE] OUT OF THERE,'" he recalled.
"And I looked at him with the head in my hand and said, ‘'You're in our house, baby.'"
After the picture, peace was made with the Blackhawks fans, and Jim wondered who the man in the suit was.
The man's name? According to Jim, it was Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks.
"So Rocky's showing his ticket to the security guard to go up the escalator to the suites. And I walk over to him, and I said, 'Yo, Rocky! There's only one Rocky in this town, baby!'" he said. "He turned around and I said, 'It's all good baby. It's all good.'"
Jim was seated in Section 116, where a cameraman from VERSUS was located and naturally took a liking to him. He was featured on the network waving the impaled Indian head after Matt Carle's(notes) goal made it 2-0. He later was given about 10 seconds of face time in the third period.
Not visible in the shot were a couple of Chicago Blackhawks fans sitting near Jim and his friend during the game, which the Flyers eventually won 5-3. Was it awkward to be in the vicinity of Blackhawks fans with an impaled Indian head being hoisted every few moments?
"No. In fact, one of the guys was bald like me. So I turned the head over and was ticklin' his head with the feathers," said Jim.
Also in his section: a couple of guys from British Columbia they befriended during the game. As the second period ended, the BC boys invited them along for an intermission trip to the main concourse. They went over a few sections and arrived at two large glass doors. The doors opened, and there was a gentleman in a Flyers alumni shirt standing there.
The gentleman's name? Orest Kindrachuk, former Flyers center and a member of both of the franchise's Stanley Cup teams.
"We were underneath the Wachovia, in the players' longue, eatin' and drinkin'," Jim recalled.
It was a moment a Flyers fan could never forget.
If, you know, Jim were actually a Flyers fan.
Fact is that the screaming, painted, impaled Indian-holding face of the Flyers postseason was actually ... gulp ... a New Jersey Devils fan when he was younger. But he said he gravitates to the Flyers in the postseason, and has some tangential relationships with team alumni.
As for his night in orange and black: "I just wanted to be one of the crazies. Just for the hell of it," he said. "I've been to the World Series once, and I've been to a Super Bowl once. And nothing compares to the electricity of that game."