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Flyers use break in schedule to their advantage

Wednesday, 10.14.2009 / 3:11 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"We're at the rink every day and it's pretty much a routine that we go through, but it's fun to know the guy you're battling for, fighting for, blocking a shot for or winning for. It's good to know that side of your teammates."
-- Ian Laperriere

In the salary cap era, it seems like teams add numerous new faces every season. While there's usually lots of time in training camp for players to learn all about their new teammates, that knowledge usually runs about as deep as what kind of deodorant they use.

The Philadelphia Flyers, taking advantage of a unique break in their schedule that sees them play just once from Oct. 11-21, are using that downtime to do some team bonding.

And since their only game in that span is Friday, Oct. 16 at the Florida Panthers, the team left Monday for a mini-vacation in Fort Lauderdale.

"This is a real good opportunity to get some work in but at the same time establish some relationships," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It's just not that easy when you are busy and you are playing all the time. Guys are at home and we don't have a lot of road trips.  We had this big break so it is important to put them in a setting where they can have some fun together, get to know each other very well and get some work done at the same time."

The team will practice every day, but there are some fun post-practice activities planned. There was a sailboat regatta on Biscayne Bay on Tuesday, and a fishing expedition Wednesday.

"It's good to take the group away from the rink sometimes," said Ian Laperriere, one of eight new players on the roster this season. "We're at the rink every day and it's pretty much a routine that we go through, but it's fun to know the guy you're battling for, fighting for, blocking a shot for or winning for. It's good to know that side of your teammates."

Stevens is a big fan of these kind of bonding sessions. In years past, the team has gone to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and to Whistler, B.C.

"The goal of these trips -- when we say team bonding -- really comes down to two things: teamwork and building trust," Stevens said. "The better you know your teammates, the more you trust in them, and, in turn, earn their trust. And that's essential for success, in any walk of life."

"With (all the) new guys here, we want to get that camaraderie and bonding and get the guys together early in the season so you have those types of relationships early in the season," added defenseman Chris Pronger, another offseason arrival. "You hope that carries over into the latter part of the year."

Scott Hartnell said the trip to Whistler in his first season with the club, 2007-08, was vital in that club coming together as a unit, and eventually going all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

"As one of the new guys, the Whistler trip was important in helping us establish a foundation," Hartnell told the team's Web site. "In a sense, we're all new to the team at the start of another season. We learn as we go. The exercises we went through up in Whistler and last year at West Point were constructive and served a purpose. Some were more fun to go through than others, but they allowed us to learn more about each other along the way."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp