Voorhees, NJ – After four long days of workouts, bike rides, weight lifting and running, the latest crop of Flyers prospects was mixed with a group of Flyers veterans and members of last season's Phantoms team for a morning scrimmage at the Sovereign Bank Flyers Skate Zone, as mini-camp came to a close.
Several of the Flyers and Phantoms veterans were mixed with the kids into orange and black squads for a friendly, yet intense contest. Among those players expected to be with the Flyers who are already in town include Chris Therien, Joni Pitkanen, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Sami Kapanen, Donald Brashear, Antero Niittymaki, Eric Desjardins and Turner Stevenson.
Some of them have not skated in quite awhile due to the lost season and want to make sure they are ready for training camp in mid-September.
"I hadn't skated in quite awhile, and I think it's important now to start," said Therien, who was reacquired by the club as a free agent earlier this month. "Obviously, we never really start skating a month before training camp, but with the circumstances of having lost a year, and especially with a lot of guys here in their thirties, I think it's an important time for guys to get out and start skating and getting reacquainted with the rink and get back in skating shape.
"It's one thing to be running and riding the bikes and that stuff, but there's no substitute for skating."
While the veterans, such as Therien, are trying to get back into game shape, it is an entirely new experience for the prospects in town for the mini-camp headed by Flyers Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim McCrossin. McCrossin has the kids in the workout room for several hours each day when they are not on the ice, metaphorically driving home the point that it is hard work to make it to the National Hockey League.
While it is certainly a thrill for the kids to take to the ice with established NHL players, it is just as exciting for the veterans.
"It's nice to be on the ice with them. It reminds you when you started, and having a chance to play with or against NHL'ers is certainly fun for them, but it was good for me too," said Desjardins. "After being off for over a year and half, I need some action and to face a game situation."
"I remember that time of youthful exuberance, if you will," said Therien. "They are excited, and it's a new endeavor for them. You can sense their nervousness of if they are doing the right thing, and that's a neat feeling to see those guys because you remember when you were one of them."Downie Eager to Impress
The Flyers' first round draft pick, Steve Downie, arrived to mini camp on Thursday, although it wasn't his first trip to the practice facility.
Downie visited the Flyers prior to the 2005 NHL Entry Draft to speak with several members of Flyers management. Clearly, the brain trust of the organization was impressed with him enough to choose him 29th overall. Now, Downie wants to show them right away that they did not make a mistake.
"It was nice, really laid back," said Downie of his first trip to Philadelphia. "I met all of the staff here and it was really nice and very professional.
"I just want to leave an impression, and that's about it. I want to show them that I want to be here."
Downie admits that he doesn't know a whole lot about the organization, but when asked what he thought of the Flyers before the draft, he was quick to point out that his game should suit this team, and this town, quite nicely.
"I think of them as a tough team, and their style is the way I play," he said. "I'm feisty and very intense. I love getting in the corners, and I love hitting. I really base my whole game around intensity."