Thu Jan 05 11:57am EST
There wasn't a fight in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia; and even though there were over 45,000 New York and Philadelphia sports fans crammed into the stadium for a rivalry game, there were no significant incidents in the stands, either.
But at 7:15 p.m. at the iconic Geno's Steaks located at 1200 South 9th St., violence broke out between hockey fans. Three unknown males wearing Philadelphia Flyers jerseys paid a homeless man to spray two New York Rangers fans with some kind of cleaning substance, according to MyFoxPhilly.com. After an altercation, they then began sucker-punching them and pummeling them as they lay on the ground.
According to NBC's New York affiliate, one of the injured Rangers fans was an off-duty New Jersey police officer and former Marine who was awarded a Purple Heart in Iraq.
Neal Auricchio, 30, has worn the uniforms of the Marine Corps and the Woodbridge Police Department, but it appeared to be his Rangers hockey jersey that made him a target of the attack earlier this week.
"He got banged up pretty badly," his father Neal Auricchio Sr., told NBC New York Wednesday. "Stitches in the one eye, and the other eye is pretty puffed up. He went for a CAT scan today, and we're waiting for the results on that."
The incident caused shock and outrage among sports fan. It caused embarrassment for Flyers fans who have spent years battling the stereotypes associated with Philadelphia fans, from fights in the stands to batteries thrown at players.
One Flyers blog had seen enough, and its sleuthing may help police crack this case.
Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey on SB Nation posted the original, graphic video on Tuesday afternoon on a post whose "ultimate goal of getting these idiots thrown in jail," saying: "We say so often that we don't deserve our reputation as awful monsters moonlighting as sports fans, but when this sort of thing happens, it completely undermines everything we say on the subject. It's up to us to police this stuff, then."
After that post, a Philadelphia man named Edward Neary posted on the Broad Street Hockey Facebook page that "it was me and my friends … do somethin' about it u fagits (sic)." After a back-and-forth with readers, he backtracked from his initial boast.
Spurred on by the blog's coverage and the ensuing outrage online, police posted the video on YouTube and asked citizens for specific information on the assailants.
Police say the brawl began with some Flyers fans stopping a window-washer who happened to be passing by, reports CBS Philadelphia.
Capt. Laurence Nodiff with the Philadelphia Police Department reportedly explained that they, "Gave him a couple bucks and said, 'Hey go over to those Rangers fans and squirt some water in their faces.' Apparently, he goes over and squirts some water and they jump up and the guy runs away."
Investigators say the rival fans got into a verbal dispute that quickly became physical after a man in a Flyers jersey threw the first punch. Two other men join in the fight, which also involves a second Rangers fan.
If you have any information about this crime, call South Detective Division at 215-686-3013.
Meanwhile, enough can't be said about the efforts of Hughes and the Broad Street Hockey blog. The first inclination from some media was to post the video and lambaste Philadelphia fans for another black mark on their reputations. Hughes, a Flyers fan, instead wanted to bring these thugs to justice. It's the content of their character, not the color of their hockey jersey, people …
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