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.”