Underdogs appeal to the masses. It’s human nature. You root for David, not Goliath.

Unless, of course, the underdogs are the Philadelphia Flyers. In their case, you boo David and you cheer for Goliath. You can’t help it. And Derian Hatcher, one of the Flyers’ behemoths, gets it.

“People,” Hatcher acknowledged, “hate us. If we’re not the most hated team in sports, we’re probably the most hated in the NHL.”

True. It has everything to do with the Flyers’ history. Since their 1967 inception, the Flyers have largely succeeded as a dirty team, laden with bullies and goons, ruffians and cheap-shot artists.

And here the cheaters are again, prospering. With a 4-2 triumph in Philly last night, the Flyers have facewashed their way to a 3-1 series lead against the heavily favoured Montreal Canadiens. They suddenly find themselves a mere victory away from a berth into the Eastern Conference championship series, most likely against their Pennsylvania puck peers, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In fairness, the Habs were the dirtier team last night and it cost them. Steve Begin was penalized for a foolish interference penalty with the game tied 2-2 late in regulation time, and the Flyers responded with a power-play goal.

And while Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak wasn’t bad last night in his first post-season start, the reality is this: Canada’s only Stanley Cup hope is about to be eliminated. By hated underdogs.

  • No-nonsense coach John Tortorella will be fired soon by the Tampa Bay Lightning and will be hired by the Ottawa Senators, NHL sources tell us … The sources also suggest Doug Wilson, general manager of the San Jose Sharks, is the new man atop the wish list of the Maple Leafs, who are desperately seeking a new bossman .… And NHLers will assemble in Toronto June 11 to re-examine the size of goalie equipment. Again.

  • The Blue Jays are cellar dwellers primarily because of offensive shortcomings but, according to U.S. baseball insider Ken Rosenthal, the knock on manager John Gibbons from “certain scouts, executives and sabermetricians is that he asks too much of his starting pitchers, failing to make proper use” of his bullpen … The Oakland A’s went 4-1 after inserting Toronto discard Frank Thomas into their lineup … I like Canadian Matt Stairs but, seriously, he’s a 40-year-old journeyman and he can’t possibly fill Thomas’ shoes as the Jays’ DH. Barry Bonds could, and the home-run king is willing to join the Jays for peanuts.

  • And, forgive me, but I can’t stop yawning. Must have been that riveting CFL draft yesterday.
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