Flyers

'He gave me some s--- about it' — how Simon Gagne's respect for Alain Vigneault strengthened over time

'He gave me some s--- about it' — how Simon Gagne's respect for Alain Vigneault strengthened over time

Simon Gagne won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012.

He played in 822 NHL regular-season games and 109 playoff contests.

He was a two-time All-Star and scored 30-plus goals four times, including two seasons with over 40 markers.

Despite plenty of NHL accolades, he will never forget his junior hockey season as a 16-year-old in 1996-97.

Alain Vigneault wouldn't let him forget it.

"That was the first time that I knew I had a big challenge in front of me," Gagne said Monday on a conference call, "when I jumped in and played for Alain."

Gagne was making the leap from Quebec Midget AAA hockey to the junior ranks in the QMJHL. Vigneault, who had not been an NHL head coach yet, was back in the QMJHL leading the Beauport Harfangs following parts of four seasons as an assistant for the Ottawa Senators.

Back then, Gagne was just a skinny scorer who thought everything happened on the ice. With a taste of the NHL, Vigneault was a coach ready to treat his youngsters like men.

It made for a relationship with some growing pains.

He was a pro coach, he just came back from the Ottawa Senators. He had those new tools, we were doing a lot of video, something I didn’t do really before that. It was a lot of video, a lot of structure in his approach that I was not used to.

On the other hand, we were a bunch of kids, 16 to 19 years old that don’t know what’s life really outside of hockey. You’re dealing with a bunch of guys that like to go out and stuff like that, not too serious about hockey sometimes, so he had to deal with that. He was really tough on us. To me, I felt he had a really strong power over us, I was really scared of Alain when he was yelling at us and stuff like that. But I was 16 years old, I didn’t really know what to expect. To me, looking back today, all of that prepared me for the NHL.

I was pretty nervous and a little bit scared of him at first when I saw him — a big guy that was keeping himself in good shape, he was intimidating when you met him for the first time. He was a tough coach on players. For me at 16 years old, that was pretty much the first time I had that type of coach. When you play minor hockey, the coaches are really easy on you and I was the type of player that I didn’t really need to be coached when I was younger.

Gagne is now 40 years old and retired. He was drafted by the Flyers during 1998 and played parts of 11 seasons in Philadelphia, becoming the organization's ninth-ranked goal-scorer with 264 tallies. Vigneault is now 59 years old and in his first year as head coach of the Flyers. He has been an NHL bench boss for 17 seasons, has won three Presidents' Trophies and taken two clubs to the Stanley Cup Final.

Both Gagne and Vigneault have changed since 1996-97. Gagne appreciates how Vigneault made him change, even if the 16-year-old was apprehensive at first. Vigneault pushed him to work and focus off the ice — like a pro, not a kid just hoping to be one.

At the time, minor hockey in midget AAA, we didn’t really pay attention too much about eating right, training right or go at the gym and put on some muscle and get stronger. We didn’t really pay attention to that. Alain was coming back from the pros and he brought that culture back into our junior team. ‘Hey guys, yeah, we practice, but after practice, you’ve got to go in the gym and lift some weights for 30 minutes or ride the bike for 30 minutes.’

Some guys were serious about it, I was 16 years old, I was not too serious about it. I didn’t like lifting weights because I was 16 years old, my weight was I think 150 at the time. Every time I was lifting something, I felt that something was going to break inside of my body. It was hard for me to go at the gym. The only time I was going, it’s when Alain was coming in the gym with us.

I don’t want to say I was not believing in that, I didn’t know anything else — I was just about practicing, getting better on the ice. Off-ice was not something that was fun for me to do and I was not willing to spend too much time there after practice.

Gagne recalled his exit interview with Vigneault after the year had finished. The head coach reminded him of the gym.

“Alain, at the end of the season, the meeting we had, he brought that back," Gagne said. "He gave me some s--- about it, that you know what it takes, he saw what the guys were doing in the NHL and that was something that Alain brought to our team that year.

“He kind of opened my eyes that I have a shot to maybe play in the NHL one day, but I have to sacrifice a couple of things and go at the gym, put on some muscle and be a little bit more serious about that if I want to play in the NHL.

“He was special."

As Gagne transformed into a first-round pick, Vigneault joined the NHL head coaching business. Gagne believes his old coach has also made adjustments along the way.

“Totally different — Alain totally changed," Gagne said. "I’m sure he’s still demanding on players, I’m sure he’s still hard on players, but I think he evolved with the game the right way. You can see he’s more of a player’s coach now, he understands what the players need, what the players like about a coach.

"What was good with Alain, I remember in junior, knowing the game, the system, the way he wanted us to play — if something needed to be changed, he was able to do that."

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Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing possible playoff matchups in NHL's 24-team format

Flyers Talk podcast: Analyzing possible playoff matchups in NHL's 24-team format

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall pick a playoff matchup for the orange and black.

From looking at the 24-team format to Michael Barkann's interview with Bernie Parent, let's dive in:

1:00 — Which playoff matchup would we prefer for the Flyers?

6:00 — Should we care about fairness in the 24-team bracket?

10:15 — Pick one of the two: season canceled or Penguins win the Cup?

13:30 — Parent has high praise for Carter Hart and the Flyers

16:25 — Why Hart is a great fit for Philadelphia

20:00 — Sharing our most painful hockey memory

25:30 — A taste of the "Marathon on Ice"

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NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

NHL releases detailed protocol for Phase 2 in potential step toward resuming 2019-20 season

The NHL on Monday released a protocol for a potential Phase 2 in its hope to eventually resume the season and award the Stanley Cup.

Phase 2 would see players being allowed to return to team practice facilities for voluntary small-group individualized training activities, whether it be on or off the ice.

The NHL is targeting a date in early June for an implementation of Phase 2, "however, it has not yet been determined when precisely Phase 2 will start or how long it may last," the league stated.

The 2019-20 season was suspended on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The league is hoping to resume the season under a 24-team format, but specific details for such a scenario are to be determined.

As for Phase 2, here is a section from the NHL's memorandum:

We are continuing to monitor developments in each of the club’s markets, and may adjust the overall timing if appropriate, following discussion with all relevant parties.

As we have stated repeatedly, the health of the players and club personnel is our top priority, and that will dictate how Phase 2, and any progression thereafter, may evolve. We again emphasize that player participation in Phase 2 is strictly voluntary. In addition, clubs are not permitted to require players to return to the club’s home city so they can complete a quarantine requirement in time to participate in Phase 2.

Clubs whose local health authorities would allow for the reopening of club facilities will be required to consult with and seek approval from the league prior to any reopening of club facilities. In those jurisdictions which continue to restrict or prohibit such activity from occurring, and in order to address potential competitive concerns, the league will work with those clubs to facilitate alternative arrangements, if desired. Further, clubs are required to comply with the public health mandates and recommended best practices of the CDC and/or Public Health Agency of Canada (“Health Canada”) applicable to them and the facility in which Phase 2 activities are to take place, including any changes to such recommendations that may take place after the commencement of Phase 2.

Let's look at some of the key points from the league's memorandum, which you can read in full here.

Testing

Players and club personnel shall be administered laboratory-based RT-PCR tests 48 hours prior to anyone returning to their team's training facility. The testing "must be done in the context of excess testing capacity, so as to not deprive health care workers, vulnerable populations and symptomatic individuals from necessary diagnostic tests," the league stated.

To determine if this will be feasible in each club’s local market, clubs shall engage with your local health authorit(ies) (as well as any other applicable health authorities such as state, provincial or federal) to determine whether asymptomatic players and other club personnel are eligible under applicable regulations and local conditions to receive PCR tests, either publicly or privately, provided that doing so does not take testing resources away from publicly necessary testing.

If testing is not available at the start of Phase 2, players who wish to participate in Phase 2 activities and “Player Access” club personnel must self-quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the facility (or, certify that they have already served a self-quarantine for the prior 14 days in the club’s home market, in which event they will be eligible to enter the facility when Phase 2 begins).

Self-quarantine

Before being allowed access to club facilities, players and permitted personnel may be required to serve a 14-day self-quarantine period imposed by local health authorities, regardless of their mode of travel (private or charter travel).

Even if not imposed by the local health authorities, such individuals returning to the club’s home city by public transportation, including commercial air or rail travel, must serve a 14-day self-quarantine period post-travel before engaging in training activities at their club’s facility.

If players and personnel departed this week for their respective club's city, it would allow them access to the facility sometime in the second week of June, if the league has decided to implement Phase 2.

Permitted activities

Six players are permitted inside the facility per session, while coaches and hockey operations personnel will be allowed to observe "the player-only non-contact skates commencing on the later of the date on which the commencement of training camp is announced by the League or two weeks after the club’s commencement of Phase 2 activities," the league stated.

Skating will consist of non-contact sessions with appropriate social distancing.

When players are not participating in on-ice activities they will be permitted to utilize the club’s exercise and weight room equipment, or receive individual treatment from the club’s medical/training staff:

• Weight training that does not include the need for a spotter 
• Circuit-based activities such as resistance training
• Cardiovascular exercises and endurance training
• Rehabilitation and treatment for players with ongoing disabling injuries and for players with non-disabling injuries, may be provided as directed by club medical/training staff

What's next?

There is no firm date for Phase 2. But if the NHL implements it in early June, it could allow for eventual training camps in late June and a possible resumption of the season at some point in July.

That roadmap is in complete theory. The situation will continue to be a day-to-day process for the NHL. Things can change and there are still many obstacles but the detailed plan for Phase 2 is a potential step forward.

June is when the Stanley Cup is typically awarded and the month in which the NHL entry draft is normally held. The NHL will soon have decisions to make on the date of the currently-postponed draft. There could also be an announcement this week on the specifics of the 24-team format. Here's how it could look for the Flyers.

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