STONE HARBOR, N.J. -- During his 16 NHL seasons, Ian Laperriere was known for hard work and smiling while he did it.
Sprinting along the beach with a former teammate on his back, however, was a new one even for him.
But Laperriere, the Philadelphia Flyers' director of player development, was right in the mix with the prospects taking part in the team's development camp this week for the annual Trial on the Isle here in this New Jersey beach town.
In years past the event involved teams of three prospects taking part in a triathlon; this year, Neil Hermanson, a member of the military, was brought in for a day of team-building exercises.
The tasks included short sprints with one prospect carrying another on his back, then a half-mile run with groups of six carrying another prospect on a stretcher. They also walked arm-in-arm into the crashing surf to show how powerful a group can be.
"It's trying to instill just a little slice of how things work in military training and just try to give them a little taste for what it takes in individual effort and reliance on having a buddy when they had to carry each other," Hermanson told NHL.com. "And then carrying each other as team, having a guy on a stretcher, just goes to show that sometimes all you have out there is you and your team and trying to reinforce that point and instill it physically."
It certainly was something the campers were unaccustomed to.
"It was definitely a new experience, but definitely a cool one," camp invitee Trevor van Riemsdyk told NHL.com. "Just one of those things you won't forget, carrying around a guy on your back and that team event, it was cool little things you do to do team building. It's different, but it was definitely cool."
"I've never done anything like that," Anthony Stolarz, a 2012 second-round draft pick, told NHL.com. "You come to appreciate your workouts at the rink a little more. Looking at what they do, it's definitely a lot more challenging, a little more team-based, having to carry your partner and then having to carry the stretcher -- it was a good experience for everyone."
Stolarz was especially adept at the final team-building event, a two-man kayak race that saw one prospect paddling blindfolded while his boatmate directed him around the course. It made for some unintentional comedy as boats traveled all over the course in many different directions, but Stolarz and his team, which included Michael Parks, Oliver Lauridsen, Taylor Leier, Terrence Wallin, Reece Willcox, Michael Boivin and Alex Emond, finished first among the six teams.
To close the race, a number of prospects swam out to the boat carrying Laperriere and his friend, former NHL player Joel Bouchard, and tipped it.
None of the prospects would own up to the offense, but Laperriere said he was paying attention and would remember who did what when the team was back on the ice Thursday.
But Laperriere said the time spent with Hermanson -- he also worked with the players off the ice Tuesday -- will serve them well going forward.
"It's all about teamwork," Laperriere told NHL.com. "That's why he's so good for those kids. You can't carry that guy for half a mile by yourself, you need your teammates. At the end of the day hockey is the same way. We don't put our life on the line like they do, but at the end of the day it’s the same thing … any team that wants to be successful, you need teamwork."
The day in the sun and surf also was a nice respite from a week of hard work on and off the ice. It included an autograph session at Stone Harbor Elementary School, a hockey clinic at the 80th Street Recreation Center, a charity softball game and a dinner for fans and prospects at the Stone Harbor Yacht Club. There also were Flyers T-shirts, hats and other items available for fans to purchase, and all money raised from the day's events goes to Flyers Charities.
However, a sizable amount is given to American Legion Post 331 in Stone Harbor, which distributes the money to families of fallen veterans -- a cause especially close to Flyers strength and conditioning coach Jim McCrossin, a Stone Harbor native who organizes the Trial. McCrossin takes an active role in supporting the military, including packing care packages for soldiers overseas -- one of whom is former Flyers prospect Ben Stafford, a Marine who has served in Iraq.
"Kevin Coyle, who's the commander of the post, makes sure (the money) gets to a family in need," McCrossin told NHL.com. "A loved one has been lost in Afghanistan or Iraq and the family is without an income. There's many families in need and we're just doing our part to support our veterans."
Having fun, working hard, and helping others in the process. It's a full day, but a good one.
"It's July 10, we didn't want to bring them here and make it miserable for them," Laperriere said. "We wanted them to enjoy their summer, but at the same time you can enjoy your summer and work out."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor