STONE HARBOR, N.J. -- On a beautiful 90-degree summer day, even the most devoted hockey prospects would like to take a day off and hit the beach.
Philadelphia Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin knows that as well as anyone, and that's why he's one of the hosts of the annual Trial on the Isle, a day of hard work and fun that comes near the end of a long week of development camp for Flyers hopefuls.
The 29 players at the camp got their work in, but it was on the beach and in the water rather than on the ice.
"It was definitely nice to get out here away from the rink this week," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "Nice to be with the fans and all the support we have. We had the trial on the isle, the obstacle course. We went to the bay and we did a little paddleboarding and kayaking, relay races. Now we're doing autographs for kids."
The day started with the players split into six four-man teams and a seventh with five. The players had to answer Flyers-related trivia questions to get started on an obstacle course and scavenger hunt along the beach. Right answers allowed the team to get an early start; wrong ones meant a dip in the Atlantic Ocean and another round of questions.
The winning foursome featured Flyers 2012 second-round pick Robert Hagg.
"I didn't say much," Hagg said of the trivia. "It was Nick Luukko who took that. He was good at it."
Luukko should be; his father, former Flyers president Peter Luukko, was a team employee for more than 25 years before resigning in December.
The players next moved to the Yacht Club of Stone Harbor for some games on the bay. There were kayak races, paddleboarding and a tug of war with the players standing on paddleboards.
After a break for lunch, the next stop was Stone Harbor Elementary School for an autograph session for fans of all ages; a $10 fee allowed fans to get as many autographs and pictures with the future of the Flyers as they wanted. Then it was back to the beach for a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament.
In a change from last year's event, two Flyers prospects were teamed with two fans, with each paying $200 for the privilege. There was commentary from Flyers television broadcaster Steve Coates and Wells Fargo Center PA announcer Lou Nolan. There also were trivia contests, giveaways from Utz potato chips and hockey sticks autographed by a number of current and future Flyers available to win as raffle prizes.
All money raised from the event was earmarked for three charities. Cape May County's animal shelter program gets money, as does a program called Family Promise that helps displaced area families struggling in rough economic times.
But the charity that is dearest to McCrossin, a Stone Harbor resident, is one run by American Legion posts in Stone Harbor and Vineland that renovates area motels for homeless veterans.
"My father was a veteran of the Korean war," McCrossin said. "I have a lot of friends and family who serve in the military. We have a lot of homeless vets in our backyards, the Pine Barrens. Through our local American Legion post and the one in Vineland, they've been taking over motels and converting them and making them a place our brave warriors, guys and girls, can come and stay and get back on their feet, sleep in a clean bed, get educated and get back into mainstream society. That's giving back. That's what being a Flyer is, giving back. We work hard on the ice but off the ice, it's what we can do for our country."
It's a fun day for everyone involved. Especially the players, who get a nice day off the ice after being in camp since July 10; they have one final day of on-ice work scheduled for Tuesday.
"It's really fun to do something different than just be on the ice and do all the details there," Hagg said. "Now it's fun with the boys and we can compete in some things other than hockey."
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Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor