Kerry Huffman looked in the mirror at his home in Doylestown a while back and didn’t like what he saw.
Once an elite professional athlete – a former No. 1 draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers – Huffman had somehow gained some 45 pounds.
Huffman’s tale was hardly unique: Many star performers find it difficult to stay in shape upon retirement, perhaps losing a sense of purpose when the bright lights go dim.
But unlike a majority of his ilk, Huffman decided to do something about it.
He didn’t have to look far. His wife, Kim, was already a marathon runner.
You can figure out the rest.
Weeks of training evolved into months and with the Philadelphia Marathon as his goal, Huffman began to shed weight. When November rolled around, he was ready to take on the 26.2-mile challenge.
The Peterborough, Ontario, Canada native will tell you it wasn’t easy (what first-time marathon is?) but he made it through in a respectable time of just over four and a half hours.
Now, back to near his playing weight of 200, the 52-year-old Huffman continues to run and feel good about himself.
About to begin his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, Huffman can get back on the ice with young players perhaps having a better self-image.
“I didn’t run at all when we played (1986 to 1996),’’ Huffman said with a chuckle during a recent phone conversation. “We were on the stationary bike training all the time doing that.
“After I had retired, I was in the mortgage banking business and got to a point where I was getting out of shape, getting heavy. I needed a new challenge.’’
Setting a goal was important.
“At first it was just a 5K,’’ he explained. “Then I started getting into it. I ended up losing those 45 pounds. It really kind of turned my lifestyle around.
“Then I said to myself, ‘I’m going to run a marathon.’ My wife had run a couple and it just kind of went from there. I ended up doing a bunch of half-marathons. As for another marathon, we’ll see. . .’’
Don’t think for a minute Huffman’s competitive side didn’t play a role in his comeback. He broke in with the Flyers in the late ‘80s when stars such as Rick Tocchet, Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, Mark Howe and Ron Hextall were still roaming the ice.
It wasn’t easy cracking that two-time Stanley Cup finalist lineup but Huffman managed to achieve that.
He called on that experience to train for and complete a marathon.
“Since you were a kid, you always have that goal in front of you,’’ Huffman said. “Then you get into business and that substitutes a little bit of it for you.
“So after my career I needed a goal to strive for. As athletes, we always had those as we were growing up.’’
In addition to his post-hockey career stint in banking, Huffman later became a certified NHLPA player agent.
That led to his forming of the Platinum Hockey Group Consulting Company. According to a profile on the Phantoms’ website, Huffman has worked with companies that have represented and advised players at all levels, including Tyler Seguin, Scott Gomez and aforementioned Flyers such as Propp, Tocchet and Kerr along with Dave Poulin, Paul Holmgren and fellow Bucks County resident Craig Berube.
Huffman played in 401 career NHL games. His Flyer tenure included 207 career games with 23 goals and a total of 84 points.
Ironically, his best season with Philly (14 goals, 60 points in 1991-92) may have gotten him traded from the Flyers.
Because of his success, he became part of the famous/infamous trade which brought Hall of Famer Eric Lindros to Philadelphia. Huffman played a couple of seasons with Quebec and Ottawa before returning to the Flyers to finish his career.
Eventually, he found his way back to the franchise as an assistant coach with the Phantoms. He even got a taste of head coaching when Scott Gordon was promoted to replace head coach Dave Hakstol, who was fired midway through the 2018-19 season.
In his tenure as an interim head coach, Huffman went 24-21-3-2 in 50 games.
As for the marathon itself, Huffman said the challenge was all it was cracked up to be.
“Right around the 20-mile mark (in Manayunk), I had an iPod going,’’ he recalled. “For whatever reason, water got in through the sleeve.
“So I lost my music. The last six miles or so, I was trotting along the (Delaware) river there and it got pretty quiet.’’
Kim and Kerry have three sons: Cade, a senior at Central Bucks West High School; Alec and Zack have graduated college and are now in the workplace.
For Kerry, running and its social aspects provide a reasonable facsimile of the camaraderie found in hockey locker rooms.
“That’s something that’s really tough to replicate,’’ Huffman said. “Athletes suffer from that when they’re away from the game.
“I felt the running community was a good substitute. I ended up meeting a lot of people. I enjoy the races but it’s more about being part of that community. It was really rewarding.’’
Moral of the story? A pro athlete can change sports, and his life, by believing in himself and utilizing his physical gifts.
In other words, he can go the distance.
“You learn a lot about your will and your determination,’’ he said. “To be able to transfer that will over into another challenge – if you’re willing to go through the tough parts, you will be successful.’’
Bucks County Turkey Trots 5K/10K, 7:45 a.m., Doylestown. Contact www.runsignup.com.
19th annual Habitat 5K, Quakertown. Contact www.active.com