2022 was an absolutely incredible year for the Hotbirds, both on and off the field. Here are our top 10 Storylines of the year that was, in no particular order.
10. The Phoenix Play at the Linc. The Phoenix returned to the Linc in January, and took on the DC Breeze in front of 65,000 fans in South Philly. The exhibition was a tremendous success, with several spectacular plays including a remarkable Paul Owens grab. You can watch the highlights here.
9. Adam Booth Joins the Squad. Who knew that being a sports fan could turn into a professional gig? Adam Booth was a longtime capo for the Philadelphia Union, and the Phoenix wanted to bring that energy to South Philly. And bring it they did. The Hotbirds still have a ways to go to become the largest fanbase in the AUDL, but they may very well already be the most enthusiastic, most of which is attributable to the man with the bullhorn. On top of Gameday, Adam also formed one-third of the Broad Street Backhand podcast with Kenny Wells and Johnny Goodtimes. Be sure to stay up-to-date on everything Hotbirds by subscribing to it today!
8. The Continued Excellence of Sean Mott and G-Mart. Mott's steady brilliance continued in 2022, as he threw for 50 or more assists for the 4th time in the past 5 years. G-Mart, meanwhile, broke his own franchise record for goals in a season with 52. That included a remarkable 8 goal, league record 658-yards receiving game in Ottawa that got the Hotbirds back into playoff contention. Check out some Sean Mott highlights here and some G-Mart highlights here.
7. Hotbird Nation. At some point over the summer, the nickname "Hotbirds" stuck to this team, and it never left. From the team singing it on the sidelines to the steady selling of "Hotbirds" branded merch, the moniker was a hit. Get your Hotbird Nation shirt or hoodie now! And be sure to check out this great vid celebrating our fanbase, the best fans in the AUDL.
6. The Return of Rhyne. Jordan Rhyne played briefly in the AUDL for the Columbus Cranes in 2014, but had since dedicated himself to club. But he decided to give the AUDL another try in 2022, this time with the Phoenix. And it paid quick dividends for the team, as Rhyne finished 4th in the AUDL in throwing yards per game and was third on the team in assists and 5th in goals. Watch Jordan's 80-yard flick against the Outlaws here. It was one of his 33 40-yard+ hucks this season, second in the AUDL.
5. Benjamin Button Brandon. Very few players improve in their 30s, but Brandon Pastor seems to be defying the odds. Named one of the East Division's Most Underrated Players, the plucky Pastor set career records in virtually every offensive category. Get your BP wallpaper here!
4. New Coaches. Roger Chu and Tom Glass brought an excellent 1-2 punch to the team in 2022, with Roger's brilliant Xs and Os strategy and Tom's contagious enthusiasm creating a winning culture that was reflected in the team's performance on the field and the family atmosphere off of it. You can check out the two coaches mic'd up for the last home game in this awesome video from Gatekeeper.
3. Rapid Growth of Youth Programs. The sport of Ultimate will only take off if young people start playing it, and with that in mind, the Phoenix rapidly expanded their youth programming in 2022. Not only did camps grow rapidly in the suburbs, but the team also ran a number of youth clinics for the city Parks and Rec Department in 2022, and also hosted an event for kids at the Avenue of the Arts Festival. The team ran a youth clinic before our final home game that was so successful that it will become a part of all 6 home games in 2023. Camps are already being organized for 2023, and advanced players can sign up for our Winter Session here. We're thrilled that more more kids than ever will learn this incredible sport in the New Year!
2. The Emergence of Paul Owens and Big Game James. I don't know if it was beginners luck or just playing the right hunch, but as soon as he joined the team, Adam said, "We need to get Paul and James to do some videos, those guys are gonna be stars." Well sure enough, they followed up on their extremely popular series of IG vids with breakout seasons. Paul was named Second Team All-Defense in the AUDL and was named by his peers the best handler defender in the East, while James came away with the AUDL's Most Improved Player Award. And with James being only 25 years old and Paul 23, the future looks bright for the Hotbirds! (Watch them toss the disc in front of the Art Museum here.)
1. Playoffs! We're Talking About Playoffs! Finally! The Phoenix 9-year drought ended in 2022 with a return to the playoffs. Despite starting 0-3, the Hotbirds went 6-3 over their next 9 to secure a playoff spot and head down to DC for our first playoff game since 2013. Hotbird Nation came out en force, with over 200 Phoenix fans cheering loudly for the Philly Seven. Though the team couldn't pull off a win, it was the first step in the right direction. And the excitement around the team displayed by the H-Nation showed the East Division and the AUDL as a whole that the Phoenix will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.