Name any of the great Flyers coaches — be it Fred Shero, Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan or Ken Hitchcock — and they all had one thing in common: Focus.
For game preparation, they could hit pause on everything in the world outside of hockey.
Alain Vigneault hasn’t done enough yet to join that list of legends but he’s off to a good start.
At least we know this much, he can concentrate on the task at hand with the best of them.
And that’s why the speech he gave at Saturday afternoon’s scheduled press conference in lieu of the usual question-and-answer session rang so true.
Vigneault had been taken to task the previous two days for declining to comment about the Jacob Blake situation after Wednesday’s game 2 of the Flyers’ playoff series against the New York Islanders.
When Vigneault sat down at the head table, he already had compiled a list of comments on a broadsheet notebook.
There was emotion in Vigneault’s voice and at one point he nearly had to stop to compose himself.
“In light, I answer to my parents, I answer to my family, I answer to my friends and I answer to God,’’ Vigneault said. “Everyone I just mentioned knows that what I’ve said since our post-game on Wednesday is the truth. My honesty, my integrity, my social commitment for some reason have been pushed to the forefront.
“After our last game against the N.Y. Islanders, I was asked about the situation in the NBA. We had played a 3 o’clock game, I didn’t know what was going on, so I didn’t comment.
“We got back that night at 6:15 at the hotel. I picked up some food, had a martini and went to my room to work. We were playing in less than 24 hours. I worked late into the night, got up very early the next morning, continued to work. I conducted our 10:30 to 11:45 coaches meeting. At 11:45 I went to get COVID tested. At 12 o’clock I was back here for a press conference. I was totally focused on our next game.
“I never bothered to ask or check (voice wavering) with anyone what was going on in the world or the NBA. I am guilty of that.’’
Vigneault made it clear he’s sympathetic to this particular cause as well as any others which involve social justice.
By midday on Thursday, Vigneault was finally made aware that something significant was happening throughout the professional sports world.
“Like I said at the 12 o’clock press conference (on Thursday), I am for equality, I am for social justice,’’ Vigneault said. “After that press conference, I went to our pre-game meal. I left there around 12:35 and as I walked out, I saw players from the four teams that are in the bubble talking. That was my first indication that something was going on.
“Very shortly after that, I received a text from one of my players telling me they were not playing that evening.
“I am guilty of not checking up on what was going on in the world and the NBA. But, I am a good person, I believe in equality, I believe in social justice. I want to be part of the solution. I want to help society in any way I can.’’
The Flyers coach acknowledged everyone who has supported him as well as those who haven’t.
“To all of the people that have texted me,’’ Vigneault said, “and called me in the last 48 hours to show their support, I want to say ‘thank you and continue to stay safe.’
“To all of the people in the last 48 hours that have questioned my honesty, questioned my integrity, questioned my social commitment, I want to say, ‘you also stay safe.’’
In closing, Vigneault talked about teamwork, and how it can help in addressing some of society’s challenges.
“You know we all have our part to do moving forward to help society fix its issues,’’ he said. “Maybe we can all start by being good to one another. Society is like a big team, everyone has a role to play. If we work together and do our roles, I am convinced that we can fix society’s issues.’’