Mark Alt

Football could've been Alt-ernate ending for Flyers' D-man

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Football could've been Alt-ernate ending for Flyers' D-man

If the Eagles raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy Sunday night, Flyers defenseman Mark Alt will be reminded of that other promising career he once had. 

As of now, Alt may be Philadelphia’s only professional athlete to win a football championship in the state of Minnesota, where he was a prolific quarterback at St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham high school, guiding the Raiders to the Class 5A state championship in 2009. He was considered the best football player in the state, claiming the coveted Minnesota Player of the Year award.

Then again, all of that should come as little surprise. Mark’s father, John, was one of the NFL’s best offensive lineman from 1984-96, a two-time All-Pro tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and a member of their Ring of Honor, where his name can be spotted easily inside Arrowhead Stadium.

“He pushed me hard,” Mark said. “He just wanted the best for me. There is a great sense of pride I feel for him, not only because he played in the NFL, but because he is my dad.” 

As much as Mark enjoyed football, there was that other sport that also piqued his interest.

"He was always outside on the rollerblades, always shooting around," John told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We had pucks all over the yard. The lawnmower chewed up a thousand pucks over the course of his upbringing. Other kids, they played video games or whatever. He had no interest in that. He was always outside."

At one point, Mark was leaning towards a collegiate football career, and why not? He was offered a scholarship to play at his father’s alma mater, the University of Iowa, under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and there were offers from UCLA and Stanford as well. Ultimately, he saw a more promising future playing hockey in his hometown at the University of Minnesota.

“I think the opportunity at the time hockey just presented itself,” Mark said. “I just got drafted. I knew I could go play at Minnesota right away, whereas football, you don’t know. You don’t know who’s at that school, who the quarterbacks are, who’s coming in. I think for me the opportunity (in hockey) was there.”

Right away, Mark was a key contributor in his freshman season. As a sophomore, Alt and the Golden Gophers lost to Johnny Gaudreau and the Boston College Eagles at the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. A year later the Carolina Hurricanes, who selected Alt in the 2010 NHL Draft, traded him to the Flyers for Brian Boucher, and he signed his first professional contract later that summer.

However, father and son still talk football. 

In fact, mention the Super Bowl to Alt’s father, John, and the topic sets in like a hornet sting. Protecting legendary Joe Montana, Alt and the Chiefs were one game away from reaching Super Bowl XXVIII before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. It's as close as he ever got to playing on professional football’s biggest stage, and it was even a conversation piece recently.

“I asked him about it a few years ago," Mark said about his father. "He definitely brought it up and he was definitely a little sour about it.

“He played 13 years and played on some good teams. Joe Montana was his quarterback and that sort of thing. They had teams that could have made a run and he definitely wishes he could have gone.”

The Flyers' season will prevent Alt from attending Super Bowl LII in his home state and just down the road in Minneapolis, where he won his state title at the now demolished Metrodome. However, Alt can truly appreciate a quarterback’s journey and can probably relate to Nick Foles who, like Alt, had played most of the season as an obscure backup until he was pressed into duty following the injury to Carson Wentz.

“The way he played in the NFC Championship and before that was outstanding,” Mark said. “He’s had successful years in the past and to take this team as far as they have and look as good as they did. They looked like a well-oiled machine in that championship game. They’ve been fun to watch.”

After Alt witnessed the Eagles demolish his hometown Vikings, he now feels no different than the rest of the championship-starved fans who are hoping the 2017 Eagles bring back the city’s first professional football title since 1960.

“It’s going to come down to a big turnover," Alt said. "Against the Vikings, that first interception was a big momentum swing. If they can play solid on defense and get a turnover like that, I think they’ll have a good shot.”  

Flyers blitzed by Canucks as losing skid extends to 5 straight games

Flyers blitzed by Canucks as losing skid extends to 5 straight games

BOX SCORE

There were so many mistakes to be found in the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night that head coach Dave Hakstol surprisingly admitted even he could have done things differently by pulling Michal Neuvirth after the goalie gave up a third goal in the opening minutes of the second period.

“That one was on me,” Hakstol said. “I should have done that after the third goal to give our team the best opportunity. Once it got to four (4-1), it’s tough to dig out of that hole. The change after three may have been the spark that our team would have needed, but hindsight is 20/20.”

Starting for the first time in 17 days, Neuvirth was pulled with 5:20 remaining in the second period after making 18 of 22 stops. He wasn’t nearly a sharp as he’s been in his previous outings.

“Obviously, I need to be better than I showed today,” Neuvirth said. “It was difficult not skating. I had three days off over the weekend and I had one practice (Monday), so it was difficult. I need to be better.”

With Radko Gudas serving the second game of a 10-game suspension, the Flyers turned in one of the worst defensive games of the season as they allowed the Canucks a handful of prime opportunities based on turnovers, missed assignments and even a poor line change (see observations).

“We had a tough time starting in the neutral zone,” Jake Voracek said. “A couple of times, the defense tried to skate it through. We just didn’t generate enough speed. On the odd-man rush we had a couple of good looks in the second [period]. It is always more open in the second.”

The pairing of Brandon Manning and Shayne Gostisbehere had an especially tough time and it started when Daniel Sedin snuck behind Gostisbehere for an early, first-period breakaway goal.

“That first goal is probably preventable,” Manning said. “Me and Ghost talked about it and we can probably sniff that one out a little bit better. The second one is tough with the young guys trying to get off for a matchup.”

Canucks leading scorer Brock Boeser capitalized on a bad change from the Flyers’ defense when he rifled the first of his two goals far post over Neuvirth’s blocker.

“We gave up two easy goals that we didn’t make our opponent work for,” Hakstol said. “You’ve got to have one defenseman out there. You can’t have two D going. That’s the reality of it.”

“It’s just little details that are costing us games right now, and I think the PK needs to be better,” Sean Couturier said. “On the defensive side, we need to be sharper. Little details, whether that’s picking up your guy or chipping it out or line change. It’s all those little things that add up.” 

For a team that has been in every game at some point of the third period this season, that simply was not the case Tuesday night. Forward Wayne Simmonds admitted some bad habits are creeping into the Flyers’ game.

“I would agree with that,” Simmonds said. “We have to find a way to break those habits. We have to find a way to get a win here, no matter what it takes. We can’t be leaving them for 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, 3-on-2s or whatever it may be. That’s going to hurt and it did.”

After winning their season opener in San Jose, the Flyers’ abysmal record against the Western Conference dropped to 5-8-4. They’re currently the only team in the Metropolitan Division with more regulation losses than regulation wins. 

“You’ve got to own it,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got to do better. You can’t sit back and rest on a lack of confidence. You give yourself confidence by preparation, work ethic, togetherness and those are things we have to put back into our game tomorrow night.” 

On Wednesday, the Flyers will travel to Brooklyn to face the Islanders for just the second divisional game of the season after blowing out the Washington Capitals, 8-2, in the home opener at the Wells Fargo Center.

Changes coming?
While the rest of the team loaded up for Wednesday night’s game on Long Island, Flyers defenseman Mark Alt took his equipment with him as he’ll rejoin the Phantoms. With Matt Read clearing waivers, general manager Ron Hextall could quite possibly make a couple of call-ups from Lehigh Valley.

“You evaluate everything on a daily basis depending on what happens,” Hextall  said. “You just don’t know. Someone gets hurt, we just can’t put them on IR. We need the flexibility for tomorrow.”

Don’t expect defenseman Andrew MacDonald to be available until Friday at the earliest. MacDonald’s skating still isn’t 100 percent even though he has practiced with the team since last Thursday. 

“It’s kind of a progression thing and we’ll see where it goes and we’ll see how he progresses,” Hextall said.

Mark Alt just fine with being Flyers' emergency call

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Mark Alt just fine with being Flyers' emergency call

Mark Alt has become the fire extinguisher behind the glass case that says: Break in the event of an emergency.

That’s what the Flyers were forced to do with the 26-year-old defenseman who prepared for his second NHL game Monday as Samuel Morin was deemed unavailable against the Coyotes. Alt, like everyone else, believed Morin was healthy enough to play.

“That’s what everybody thought,” Alt said. “A little bit of a surprise this morning. Still had a regular practice for me. It’s the second time it’s happened this way. I guess that’s how it’s going to be."

The first time came on March 28, 2015, in a noon game against the San Jose Sharks, when he played 9:25 and finished with a minus-1 rating in a 3-2 shootout loss. 

“That was even more tricky,” Alt said. “They told me the night before to be on call, essentially on standby. I got the call around 8 or 9 in the morning and I was here for a [noon game].”

While Alt was part of the last round of cuts during Flyers training camp, he has arguably been Lehigh Valley’s best all-around defenseman. He’s the only blueliner to play in the Phantoms' first 10 games, posting two goals, six points and a plus-6 rating. 

“I think I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing in Allentown,” Alt said. “It’s good to be healthy. I’m just going to keep doing what I have been and hopefully that’s what they’re looking for, and keep that rolling.

“Anytime you get an opportunity to play, it’s an awesome feeling, so I’m excited.”