It didn't take long for Cam Atkinson and Kevin Hayes to catch up after the Flyers acquired the longtime Blue Jacket in a trade a week and a half ago. The two played together for a year at Boston College and are good friends.
Naturally, No. 13 was a topic of conversation. With Atkinson coming to Philadelphia, there was a jersey dilemma between the reunited teammates. Atkinson had worn No. 13 in college and throughout his 10-year career in Columbus. Hayes had worn No. 13 with the Rangers and rocks it in Philadelphia, where he signed a seven-year, $50 million deal two summers ago and is an alternate captain.
"Kevin Hayes and I are good buddies," Atkinson said Monday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers Talk podcast. "I know he's had a lot of success with 13 with Philly. He was like, 'Do you want the number? I'll give it to you.' I'm like, 'Honestly, you've done such good things with the Philly jersey, with that number, that you deserve it.'"
Both had no hesitation offering up No. 13. The selflessness was a subtle example of what the Flyers are hoping to breed with their new dynamic in an important 2021-22 season. Good players with track records, leadership characteristics and rejuvenated mindsets to supplement Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and company.
General manager Chuck Fletcher felt the Flyers lost a costly amount of experience when Matt Niskanen retired last offseason.
"That was one of the ones that maybe people don't recognize as much — what he did," Fletcher said. "Even for guys like Giroux and Couturier, they could look to Niskanen for all his experiences."
Prior to the win-now signings of Martin Jones, Keith Yandle and Nate Thompson in free agency, Fletcher started revamping the Flyers' roster with new experience by trading for Atkinson, Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen.
"I think we're bringing in people that have played, been on good teams, bad teams, seen the ups and downs — they're going to bring a lot of those experiences with them," Fletcher said on July 24, which was Day 2 of the NHL draft and when the club acquired Atkinson in a trade for Jakub Voracek. "All three are very excited to come to Philadelphia, very excited. I got so pumped up talking to Cam Atkinson today. I've been not sleeping a lot for the last week and I didn't need another cup of coffee after my conversation with him. He's fired up and ready to go."
Atkinson, a native of Riverside, Connecticut, is fired up to wear No. 89 in orange and black. The 32-year-old winger is a family-oriented people person with a 41-goal season on his résumé. Similar to how it didn't take long for him to connect with Hayes following the trade, it didn't take long for Atkinson to embrace this new chapter of his career in Philadelphia.
"I was actually 89 at the world championships a couple of summers ago and had some success, that's my birth year number," he said. "I was like, 'Fresh start, new look, let's go!'"
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