PHILADELPHIA – Outdoor games are nothing new to the Flyers but the one coming up on Feb. 17, 2024 against the New Jersey Devils should create some new, special excitement.
The Global Series game will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., just a few miles from New York City, and is part of a “doubleheader” which will feature a second game between New York’s two hockey teams, the Rangers and Islanders, the following day on Sunday, Feb. 18.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at MetLife, both Flyers team president of hockey operations Keith Jones and general manager Daniel Briere expressed excitement regarding this somewhat unique format of four teams playing in games on back-to-back days. This will be the first time that’s happened.
While the Flyers are in rebuilding mode, they clearly are committed to trying to be competitive. This game might showcase those intentions.
“It (an invitation to this game) means a lot,” Jones said. “Obviously the culture within our franchise is something that we’re really trying to focus on, make sure that we build from within.”
Also in attendance was Flyers CEO Dan Hilferty.
“Ownership has really bought into what we’re trying to do,” Jones said. “We want to be a team like the Devils, Islanders and Rangers are right now, eventually. We’re in a growth period, we’re having a lot of fun, working together to try to get things back on track.
“So we’re looking forward to the opportunity to have our fans come up here, it’s an hour drive, to enjoy some great hockey outdoors. I know players love playing there and their families love being part of it. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of those games through my broadcasting career and cover them, just to see how much more that type of regular-season game means to the players. I think it’s something you can really build upon.”
The Flyers’ most recent outdoor games were a home-and-home series with Pittsburgh before the pandemic.
At MetLife, there should be plenty of room for many Flyers fans as the place holds close to 80,000 seats for hockey.
Briere played in some outdoor games so he knows the experience is special. Flyers fans appreciate the chance to watch their favorites in an outdoor environment.
“Amazing fans,” Briere said. “I was very fortunate to play in front of the fans in Philly. I know how we hear all the time how they can be hard, tough on the players, but they can be passionate, they really love their sports. It was a privilege to play there.
“When I started, the game was a little different. I tried to run away and survive. But it’s changed a lot, the rules make our game a lot more exciting. It’s really fabulous to see and (our players) having the chance to play on such a big stage. We’re just down the turnpike here. A lot of our guys are in Jersey so it’s going to be a blast to have all the fans from the four teams get a chance to watch here at MetLife.”
Later in the day at the Wells Fargo Center, Briere expanded on his previous comments.
Briere played in two outdoor games, including Bruins-Flyers at Boston in 2010 and Rangers-Flyers at Philadelphia in 2012. He has fond memories of both.
“I remember before each game kind of walking in the outfield,” Briere said with a smile. “Trying to soak it all in. It was pretty amazing, looking at the sky. It brings back so many memories of your childhood, playing outdoors. I was trying to keep that in my mind as much as possible. Be in the moment, that’s what I kept telling myself.”
With so many seats available and the stadium a short drive from Philadelphia, Briere expects a large contingent of Flyers fans at the game.
“I expect a lot of our fans to be up there,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. It’s a great celebration of the game. It’s so close. Anybody who has watched us play, the games have been amazing to watch. I’ve been having a blast watching the way they work, the way they compete this year. It’s a lot of fun to watch. It’s good to showcase our team, great for us to have this chance. We have a lot of young guys that are not that well-known but they’re going to be playing a bigger role on our team.”
>Optional skate at Voorhees
It was just an optional skate at the Flyers Training Center on Wednesday morning.
Coach John Tortorella reiterated he wants his team to be thinking offense when the opportunity presents itself.
“I want us to take chances,” he said. “I didn’t say much last year because I felt it was so naked in front of (goalie) Carter (Hart), how we played, on the video I watched when we first came here.
“It needed to be straightened out. They bought into that, they worked hard at that last year. Now we’re trying to get the other part of the game to come into it.”