West Point, NY – It's no secret that Flyers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is a military buff. An expert on the Civil War, Hitchcock used to take part in reenactments in his free time. For the second time in two seasons, Hitchcock decided to take his team to West Point, NY, home of the United States Military Academy for some team building.
Prior to the 2003-04 season, the Flyers spent time here after training camp but before the first game. Due to a quirk in the schedule which gives the Flyers an entire week off between games, the team left its practice facility in Voorhees, NJ immediately following a morning skate and will return on Wednesday evening.
With all of the new faces on the team, the players recognize the importance of getting to know and trust one another, and welcome the excursion.
"We took a lot from the experience two years ago at West Point, and there are a lot of changes this time in our locker room," said Keith Primeau. "We're looking for another positive response from this one as well."
"We need to get to know each other a little bit better here," said Peter Forsberg. "I'm new and there's a lot of younger guys coming in that are new. Where else can you get to know each other than an Army camp?"
The schedule is relatively light, but since West Point is home to the USMA and relatively little else, there will be nothing else to do but to bond on and off the ice. The guys began the trip with a mandatory team dinner on Monday night.
"There's nothing else to do, so you're going to have to be with the guys," said Simon Gagne. "That place is maybe the best place to bring the guys all together. It's a small town, and you have no choice to be with the guys."
The Flyers will practice at the USMA's Tate Rink on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with the practices open to the public. On Tuesday afternoon they will have an extended team-building session in which Hitchcock has divulged a few details, unlike last time when the players were left virtually in the dark as to what they would experience.
"We're going into their high performance center, and we're going to have a look at it," said Hitchcock. "They have also put some things in place where all of us can participate.
"The guys are going to get an experience of focus and motivation with things that are uncomfortable and they are still going to have to maintain their focus. I think the players will find it interesting and a real good learning experience. Most of it is just for us to get together and do it in an environment that is there for sacrifice, so hopefully we can get in the mood to talk to each other."
After practice on Wednesday, the team will have a meal in the mess hall with the cadets, something that they did last time and was quite enjoyable for the captain.
"It's an experience that most people outside of the military would never experience," said Primeau. "We did it once, and we're going to do it again, so I'm excited and I've been telling the younger guys about it."
"We're meeting some important people that have to do special things in life," said Donald Brashear. "We'll try and take their experiences and see how they act, and see if we can bring that over to the games and how we have to react together when we face challenges."