VOORHEES – Call it a mutual admiration society.
As much as military personnel appeared wide-eyed during Tuesday’s annual visit to the Flyers, the pro hockey players said they are equally awed by these highly trained specialists.
For the Flyers’ three Americans – James van Riemsdyk, Justin Bailey and Shayne Gostisbehere — the yearly appearance continues to hold special meaning.
Middletown, N.J. native van Riemsdyk grew up just 50 miles from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in central New Jersey, so he’s well aware of what these people do for their country.
“For me, you sort of get that local connection,’’ said JVR, who had a nice chat with Joint Base MDL commander Anthony “Tony’’ Bianchi. “It’s cool, having those local ties to people – you can relate to them about stuff.’’
Bailey, acquired in a trade from Buffalo, grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville. He has a cousin in the military, so talking with these guys comes naturally.
“I have immense respect for these guys,’’ Bailey said. “What they do, how they protect us and everything like that. It’s great to spend a couple minutes with them.
“They get to pick my brain and I get to pick theirs a little bit.’’
Bailey signed autographs, took photos, etc., all the stuff that players normally do with fans. But these weren’t just ordinary fans.
“These guys are kind of in awe of what we do,’’ Bailey said. “How crazy it is on the ice, during games, during practice.
“For me, it’s doing something that I love, which is hockey. It’s fun but to see these guys and knowing what they’ve been through, all their training and everything they’ve had to do in their careers, it’s really special.
“It’s obviously bigger than hockey. All of us really appreciate it.’’
Gostisbehere hails from Pembroke Pines, Fla. He also took the time to chat with the visitors.
“It’s cool, it’s awesome,’’ Gostisbehere said. “Any time they can get away from what they’re doing every day, then we could have some fun, show them our lives and our side of what we do.’’
>Raffl signs new contract
The Flyers announced on Tuesday they have signed Michael Raffl to a new, two-year contract which will pay him an average salary of $1.6 million. Prior to the signing, Raffl was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.