Flyers provide treat for Snider Youth Hockey Foundation
Ray Emery and the Flyers practiced at Scanlon Ice Rink on Sunday afternoon. (Zack Hill, Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers arrived at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday morning like they have so many times, sat at their locker stalls and got dressed and ready to play.
Except instead of hitting the ice there in South Philly, they carried their skates and boarded a bus to Kensington, where they surprised a group of kids from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation by practicing at the Scanlon Ice Rink.
A day after the team notched their third win of the season, it was a perfect opportunity to let loose, have a little fun and, of course, give back to the community.
“It was fun,” Braydon Coburn said. “We had a good time out there. I think all the guys here in the room, we grew up playing in rinks like this. It was good to buzz around there and do a little practice. It was fun.”
Scanlon is one of the rinks owned by the city that Flyers chairman Ed Snider has helped refurbish over the past couple years. It anchors the North Philadelphia community and plays host to a number of Snider Hockey’s teams.
But on Sunday, it was a special substitute for Skate Zone, where the Flyers usually practice. Instead of fans packing the stands to watch, though, young hockey players from the surrounding neighborhoods got to sit on the benches and get an up-close view of the Flyers as they completed drills.
The Snider Hockey kids, a group of inner-city youth to whom the foundation has given the chance to play hockey, had been told only that there was a “special event” taking place Sunday morning. They had no idea that they’d be watching and chatting with their heroes.
“In between drills a couple times, got to say hi [to the kids],” Scott Hartnell said. “They’re pretty fired up. They might not get to go to Voorhees (Skate Zone) every day or see us play at the big rink, so it’s cool for them to see that, and us to see them after, we’re excited.”
The Flyers practiced for only about 30 minutes, a lighter-than-average session because they had traveled from Long Island just 12 hours earlier -- but also because they wanted to give the kids a more entertaining experience.
“More passing, shooting, fun stuff, to give the fans a little show,” coach Craig Berube said. “We played last night, so we gave the players a little bit of a break today. But just a fun practice.”
The idea to practice at Scanlon actually belongs to general manager Paul Holmgren. He came up with the concept months ago, while Peter Laviolette was still with the Flyers.
The new coach, however, was more than happy to adopt the idea as well.
“[Holmgren] supports all that stuff, and supports Mr. Snider’s foundation, so it’s important that we do these kinds of things,” Berube said. “He knows that, and he asked us to do it, and we did it.”
When practice ended, the Flyers squeezed into a small Scanlon locker room to unlace their skates, re-pack their own bags and board a bus back to the Wells Fargo Center to take off their gear and shower. That kind of experience is familiar for anyone who's played hockey as a child -- it's almost a cliche to speak of a 5-year-old kid sitting buckled in his or her parents' car in full gear except for skates and helmets.
So it's no surprise Sunday's event evoked memories of childhood for the Flyers.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Hartnell said. “It does bring you back to an early-morning practice, where you sat on the step and got dressed and dad and mom drove you to practice at 5:30 in the morning.”
And even though the whole thing may have been a bit inconvenient -- the Eagles, you'll recall, were hosting the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon across the street -- it was worth it.
“To see the kids smiling, and us having a good practice,” Claude Giroux said, “it’s fun.”