VOORHEES, N.J. – If you plan on being a champion someday, you better train like one.
To that end, the Flyers spent the past four years putting together one of the most modern, state-of-the-art training facilities in professional hockey.
On Wednesday, the team took the Philadelphia-area media on a tour of the new complex, which was completed this past September.
Rather than move away from the 20-year-old Skate Zone, the Flyers chose to overhaul it.
It’s a magnificent fitness center, with a strong emphasis on sports science – from daily athletic maintenance to injury recovery.
After the 30-minute tour, chairman and CEO of Comcast Spectacor Dave Scott joined team president Paul Holmgren and general manager Ron Hextall for a press briefing to go over the high points and timeline of the project.
“It’s something we’re all proud of,’’ Scott said. “We didn’t really want to just refurbish this place, we really wanted to create something special.
“It was a pretty significant investment, something for the long haul.’’
The Flyers bought out an adjacent roller rink and went on to create a new gymnasium, featuring cutting-edge workout machines, a shooting room, a mini-rink, weight room, video studio and new locker rooms.
Anything to keep up in the highly competitive National Hockey League.
“It’s something we’re really proud of,’’ Scott said. “When you think about it, this is where it all starts. You look at the Flyers organization, what we do, day in, day out.
“You look at our young kids, the trainers working with our seasoned vets, this is where we really push forward as a team.’’
Comcast Spectacor, which took full control of the Flyers after the passing of Ed Snider in April, 2016, sounds fully committed both to this facility and the team of Holmgren and Hextall.
“On the ownership side, I can tell you we’re really proud of where we are right now,’’ Scott said. “We’re excited where we’re sitting.
“It’s such a competitive Metropolitan Division and you take it one night at a time. But we’re in a good place right now.’’
Indeed. The Flyers are eight points up on a playoff spot with just 22 games to play.
Holmgren said assistant general manager Barry Hanrahan played a key role in the design of the facility. It’s not modeled after any other team’s – rather it’s an original layout that took quite a bit of planning.
“He had a big say in how all this was laid out,’’ Holmgren said. “He took a lot of guys’ opinions and went forward with it.’’
Holmgren, who was succeeded by Hextall in 2014 for the GM’s role, said he’s proud of the progress made in the past few years.
“If you look where we’ve gone as an organization. . .when we made the change, Ron’s idea was, it was a big change. He said we’re going to draft, we’re going to develop.
“The key thing at the time was we’re going to remain competitive, without dropping to the bottom like a lot of teams have done. We haven’t. We’ve stayed right in the thick of things. Ron has put together a strong prospect list that are performing at high levels.
“The future is extremely bright.’’
Hextall helped build two Stanley Cup championship teams as an assistant GM in Los Angeles. No doubt his experience there helped forge a plan for the Flyers.
Having an excellent training center is part of that.
“You’ve seen the commitment we have to developing young players,’’ he said. “It’s important to have young, home-grown players, who are invested in this organization – in our town, in our community.
“It’s more special to win a Stanley Cup in an organization that you basically grew up in than it is going as a 31-year-old somewhere else trying to win a Cup.’’
It makes it easier to build a tighter-knit team when there is a central rallying point like the Skate Zone.
Said Holmgren: “When players hang together, you bond that way as a group. Good teams are teams that are
“When you look at developing young players, it’s a long process,’’ Hextall said. “You have to train them properly on how to train, the equipment they need, the nutrition, the rest.
“But the facilities are important as well. Let’s say Player X as a gym in Alberta, well we have a gym, we have a mini-rink, we have a shooting room, we have sports science, we have a strength and conditioning coach. We can offer you more to be the best that you can be.’’
There’s no such thing as too much knowledge. You see it now in the Flyers’ “fresh legs.’’ They haven’t allowed a power play in three straight games, something that’s been done only twice in the NHL since 1977 (when those stats were first kept).
“We’ll do everything we can to make them (young players) the best they can be,’’ Hextall said. “Including a top-notch facility.’’
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