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Global Series

Flyers, Blackhawks gear up for season opener in Global Series

Hold practice, skills competition for fans in Prague

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

PRAGUE -- Jakub Voracek was the star of the show when his Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks held a skills competition in front of thousands of fans at O2 Arena on Thursday, a dress rehearsal for their season-opening game against each other in the 2019 NHL Global Series on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, NBCSP, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).

The Flyers forward, who resides in Kladno, about 16 miles northwest of Prague, got the loudest response from the crowd at the end of Philadelphia's practice.

Voracek also used the event as a way to help his charity Kluk Puk -- "Lucky Puck" in Czech -- which aims to fight multiple/disseminated sclerosis. He hosted 93 MS patients and their family and friends at the arena (he wears No. 93) and met with them after practice. Voracek's sister Petra, who is battling the disease, and other members of the Voracek family were also at the practice.

After practice, Voracek signed a jersey and teammates Claude Giroux and Carter Hart donated autographed gear that will be auctioned to raise money for the foundation. The NHL also made a $25,000 donation to the foundation.

"It means a lot, obviously, you know, it's those kinds of moments, and sports especially, that brings people together," Voracek said. "That's why we started a foundation. That's why we are doing that. I'm glad they get the chance. And with NHL help, we made it happen. So, it's always a lot of fun to see your family around."


[RELATED: Twarynski of Flyers surprised by parents in Prague]


The atmosphere, different from an off-day practice in North America, struck a chord with several players.

"It was awesome, and [the reaction for] Jake at the end, it shows how much they love hockey over here, how excited they are that they get to see a live NHL game, a live NHL practice," Flyers defenseman Justin Braun said. "The excitement is there. Really cool to be part of it."

Throughout the afternoon, fans took photos of players from the Flyers and Blackhawks. Youth hockey players chanted throughout the practices. Tommy Hawk, the Blackhawks mascot, threw T-shirts to fans during Chicago's practice.

"I've never seen that many people for a practice before," Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome said. "It's fun. Obviously, they love hockey, so it was nice to see. There should be a lot of people tomorrow and a pretty loud crowd, so I'm looking forward to it."

Between the team practices, players from the Blackhawks and Flyers competed in a skills competition, which featured a shootout and accuracy-shooting contest.

Forward Alex DeBrincat, who signed a three-year extension with Chicago earlier Thursday, Brandon Saad, Dominik Kubalik (who grew up in Pilsen, about 90 minutes from Prague) and goaltender Collin Delia participated for the Blackhawks. Flyers forwards Connor Bunnaman, Carsen Twarynski and Chris Stewart were joined by goalie Alex Lyon.

The Blackhawks won the competition, 25-15.

At one point, Gritty, the Flyers mascot, failed to score against a cut-out of a goalie and threw his stick on the ice in anger.

"It's different from what you're used to," Delia said. "You practice your whole life with nobody in the arena and, all of a sudden, it's like a game-like atmosphere for practice. You can hardly hear what the coaches say.

"It's cool for them, you know, as a city to get to engage in this. In the [United States], maybe you take it for granted. They have professional athletics here, but I think just the allure and prestige of an NHL club is a little different. It's always cool to interact with things they don't get to do that often." deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report.

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