Planes, Trains and Frozen Toilets — Goulbourne's wild journey to Flyers

Planes, Trains and Frozen Toilets — Goulbourne's wild journey to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — New Flyers forward Tyrell Goulbourne had to overcome an unusual obstacle on his way to the NHL — a frozen toilet.

Promoted from Lehigh Valley earlier this week, Goulborune was supposed to join the Flyers in time for their tilt with the Islanders on Thursday, but the weather had other plans. The 23-year-old’s flight was cancelled because of the malfunctioning bathroom in coach, setting off a chain reaction that ultimately resulted in his missing the contest.

“I think I missed four flights,” Goulbourne said. “Four of them were pushed back. I had to clear customs, go back in, clear it again. It was miserable.”

Goulbourne was on a bus to Toronto for a game with the Phantoms when the call-up came, and tried to quick catch a plane back to Philadelphia for his NHL debut. After spending about 24 hours on the road, he eventually joined the Flyers for practice on Friday.

“It’s kind of the old 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' it sounds like for him,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said, referring to the 1987 movie, “but he made it in last night. It’s good to have him here at practice.”

It was worth it, said Goulbourne, who needed 24 hours to travel all of 350 miles — a roughly one-and-a-half hour flight that he compared to taking a trip to Europe.

“I can relax now a little bit,” Goulbourne said. “It’s tough that I couldn’t play (Thursday), but I’m here now.”

Goulbourne will likely make his debut on Saturday when the Flyers host the Blues, skating on the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Jori Lehtera.

A third-round draft pick by the Flyers in 2013, Goulbourne became a fixture on Lehigh Valley’s penalty kill this season. However, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound left-hander is perhaps better known for his willingness to drop the gloves during his time in the minor leagues.

“I played on the first line in junior,” Goulbourne said. “I’ve never been just a guy to go out and fight. I’ve always played the game both ways, both ends of the ice.

“Having so many fights, that’s what people say. You get that label right away. I’ve always been a guy who plays well in our defensive zone and can contribute offensively, too. But the enforcer, I’ve never really been one.”

The Flyers are hoping Goulbourne plays with the same energy at this level.

“If he’s in the lineup, he’s going to go out and do the exact same things that he’s been doing down in Lehigh Valley,” Hakstol said. “He’s been a real consistent player there. He’s been a hard-nosed, two-way forward.

“He skates really well, and from their staff there, he’s been one of their most consistent players playing that straight-line, tenacious brand of hockey.”

Goulbourne was considered an unlikely call-up. There are several more highly-touted prospects at Lehigh, including Oskar Lindblom, Danick Martel and Mike Vecchione. In fact, Goulbourne was demoted only a year ago, spending 36 games with the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate in Reading.

That’s about the time when Goulbourne realized he needed to reinvent himself if he was ever going to make it to the NHL.

“It’s all been consistency,” Goulbourne said. “My first year, I’d have a really good game, then disappear for a week. It happened last year, and starting this year, I knew I had to change. It’s the last year of my contract, and I wasn’t going in the right direction.

“I changed my whole mindset up, I’ve been consistent, and that’s exactly what they told me to do.”

His promotion is partly a matter of circumstance, too.

“There’s a lot of high-end players on our team down there,” Goulbourne said. “[Flyers general manager Ron Hextall] says we want some energy and some physical play, and I think that’s what I bring to the table.

“I just want to use my speed and get to the areas that are hard to get to.”

Still, even Goulbourne was surprised by the news.

“I was thinking, ‘Is it April or not,’” Goulbourne said. “I was excited. I’ve worked really hard this year, and it’s really nice to be up here.”

There’s another way of looking at Goulbourne getting the nod over the likes of Lindblom, Martel or Vecchione. The Flyers have had some trouble giving 60 minutes of high-end effort game in, game out this season. Adding a rookie to the mix, and particularly somebody with a lot to prove, could give the team the spark it needs.

The Flyers played with a lot of energy in a 6-4 victory over the Islanders on Thursday (see story), despite the fact that Goulbourne never made it to the arena. Yet, Hakstol insists that was a coincidence, and there is no hidden agenda behind Goulbourne’s promotion.

“I’m not looking for any messages or anything like that,” Hakstol said. “We talked to the team about being better in our own building, about getting off to a better start and sustaining that through 60 minutes.

“That’s not about one guy. It’s certainly not about one call-up. That’s about our group, and the urgency our group played with from the drop of the puck last night is what we want to look at on a nightly basis, especially in our own building.”

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).