Being the fittest team doesn’t necessarily translate into Stanley Cup success.
But it sure doesn’t hurt.
The last two Flyers teams to reach the Stanley Cup Final – 1997, 2010 – were led by players who also were outstanding runners and conditioning monsters.
That ’97 squad, which made it to the ultimate round before bowing to Detroit, had workout nuts such as Rod “The Bod’’ Brind’Amour and Eric Desjardins.
The ’10 unit, denied glory by the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Cup Final that year, had Braydon Coburn leading the pack.
In between those two high-water marks came another speedster, Mark Recchi.
You get the idea. When a team has players in top shape, the game can pick up speed and shifts can last effectively an extra five or 10 seconds.
Those were the days when running was instrumental in hockey players’ fitness.
Today, defenseman Ivan Provorov puts himself through a year-round training program. No wonder he leads the Flyers in ice time year after year and places among the NHL’s top minutes played performers.
Which is why it was grafifying to learn of the Flyers’ decision to hire Ian Laperriere as new head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Monday.
Not only does Laperriere bring a wealth of on-ice acumen to the position but off the ice as well.
Having covered the Flyers a few years or so, I can state without doubt Laperriere is the fittest coach to have worked in the Flyers’ organization.
Need proof? In this past decade alone he has competed in the North American Championship Ironman Triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run).
When he’s not on the ice, you can probably find him out running or riding a bicycle to this day.
Laperriere came right out and said he’s not going to have any players who are in less than peak shape on his roster. That’s important because the Phantoms are the final developmental stop on the way to the Flyers.
“I’m a big believer in fitness,’’ Laperriere said. “Players who play for me have to be in shape or I’ll get them in shape. They know that. Guys that know me, the ones who play for me know that. To be a pro, you have to be a pro 24 hours a day.’’
An aerobic training program goes beyond offseason work. With tight schedules, inseason conditioning is important, too.
“I know by implementing good training habits from the get-go it will help the players succeed during our season,’’ Laperriere said. “And also help them as individuals.
“The biggest part for me is the mental aspect. The players will know in the backs of their heads that they did more than the guys they will be playing against. Inseason training is not as hard as summer training but there are ways to improve your fitness during the season, such as nutrition.’’
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Laperriere will be involved with the entire system, including player development (which is where Laperriere actually started his coaching career with the Flyers).
“He’ll be involved in all our development meetings this summer,’’ Fletcher said. “He’s going to work with our strength and conditioning staff as well. We’re trying to take it (fitness) a step further and integrate it even more to what we do here.’’
Like most NHL teams, the Flyers found it difficult to get in proper training time during much of 2020 due to the pandemic. Hopefully, that’s changing.
“This summer the world seems to be opening up,’’ Fletcher said. “Our expectation is that players are going to be able to do what they need to do to be in great shape.
“I know ‘Lappy’ will be reaching out to several players, some of the (Toronto) ‘bubble’ players in particular he knows from the NHL. But he may end up coaching here depending on how things go in camp.’’
Fletcher acknowledged when players know the coach is as fit (or, in Laperriere’s case, fitter) than they are, getting them to work harder won’t be a problem.
“I think he can be a pretty powerful advocate of the necessity of working out for some of those bubble guys,’’ Fletcher said. “I know he will do that well.’’
Friday, June 18
Donut 5000, 5:30 p.m., Newtown. Contact www.runsignup.com
Saturday, June 19
Wounded Hero 5K, 10 a.m., William Tennent High School, Warminster. Contact www.woundedhero5k.com