The old one-liner — “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” – may be in need of tweaking.
In the case of a controversy sweeping the Delaware Valley, the joke might go, “I went to a photo shoot with the Flyers mascot and a fight broke out.”
A Newark family that have held season tickets for more than twenty years is claiming the raffish Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty assaulted their son, and they are not happy about the sports organization’s response.
Details around the November photo shoot are in dispute, when Chris Greenwell and his 13-year-old son Brandon went to the Wells Fargo Center for a meet and greet with Gritty. Greenwell says when Brandon playfully tapped Gritty on the head, the mascot – or, more accurately, the person inside the mascot’s costume, whose identity has not been revealed – retaliated by punching the boy in the back.
“As soon as the photo shoot was finished, my son — he’s infatuated with the Flyers and he’s a 13-year-old — he walks by Gritty and he taps him three times on his helmet. Didn’t hit him, didn’t punch him, just did lightly taps on his helmet just like a lot of other kids probably do at all their games,” Greenwell told us.
“Then we were walking away, and we were about eight feet from where we stood for the photo shoot, when I saw Gritty jump up from his chair — and he’s 7 feet tall — and he lunged toward my son and punched him in the lower part of his back, really, really hard. Like put his whole body into him,” said the enraged father who has since reported the alleged assault to Philadelphia Police.
Greenwell says he first thought maybe the strike was horseplay. “Then when I realized it wasn’t, I asked my son what happened. “Gritty hit me really hard, and I don’t know why,” said Brandon. Greenwell then suggested that they report it to authorities on site, but his shocked son said he just wanted to leave in a hurry and “get out of there.”
Greenwell says the blow resulted in a trip to the chiropractor for Brandon, who diagnosed the boy with a bruised back — “contusion to lower thoracic spine with subluxation,” specifically, according to documents from the chiropractor, provided to TSD by Greenwell.
Greenwell has seen his share of hockey games at the Wells Fargo Arena. He has attended 20 or more games a year for two decades and says Gritty has “a reputation for being rough, instigating horseplay, roughing people up in the stands.” This year, Comcast Spectacor added a new attraction to their Flyers lineup — a Gritty Rage Room where fans are invited to go upstairs and smash “fragile, everyday objects” like mirrors and tables with a baseball bat — in the company of Gritty.
Greenwell complained about the incident the morning after the photo shoot by sending an email to the franchise. He was hoping to get an apology from the organization. That email was forwarded to Flyers’ owner Comcast Spectator, which has been handling the communication ever since.
According to emails Greenwell shared with TSD, Laurie Kleinman, Vice President of Risk Management for Comcast Spectacor first emailed Greenwell on November 25th, offering an opportunity for a photo retake, which Greenwell declines. She also says they need time to investigate the allegations.
Surprised at their response, Greenwell asked Kleinman to simply take a look at the video so they could see for themselves what happend.
Her response on December 3: “Mr. Greenwell, We do not have any video of the event, so I was unable to review footage of the incident. Our cameras in that area of the Center are focused on other locations. I did speak with Gritty and Gritty’s handler and several other individuals who were present at the event. Please give me a call so that we can discuss this matter.”
In a subsequent email, Kleinman wrote that Comcast Spectacor could not “identify anyone who witnessed the incident as you described it. It is unfortunate that you and your son had a bad experience at our Gritty Photo Event. ”
Greenwell feels certain there is likely video of the alleged assault.
“This was the most public area in the whole Wells Fargo Center. The Center just did a $250 million renovation with cameras all over the place. I even have pictures of the cameras where it happened. There are three cameras right there where it happened,” said Greenwell.
Eventually the Flyers offered to appease the season ticket holder with ticket upgrades, but they did not admit wrongdoing. Greenwell says there really isn’t any upgrade he could be given since he has some of the best seats in the house – center ice, 11 rows up.
Getting no satisfaction, in December the incensed father brought his case to the Philadelphia Police Department who say their investigation is “active and ongoing.”
Brandon, who attends school in Middletown, loves ice hockey. He has been playing with a local ice hockey league at University of Delaware for the past five years. But his dad says the situation at the Wells Fargo Center has become overwhelming for him. “He’s become traumatized by it, really,” said Greenwell. “There’s been some pretty good press about this in the last 24 hours. So he went to school today with a lot of concerns. But he said it went okay today. He seemed to be a pretty popular kid today.”
Greenwell emphasized that he has not hired a lawyer and is only looking for the Flyers organization to apologize and make things right. However, the 20-year season ticket holder told us he has decided to turn back in his season tickets.