VOORHEES, N.J. — As the Flyers tee it up Tuesday during their annual tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Pine Hill, New Jersey, Alex Lyon may be the rare athlete who’s more interested in Trump’s plans for diplomacy than the layout of his golf courses.
The Flyers' netminder has two real passions in life moving forward: playing in the NHL and studying nuclear war. We’ll elaborate on the latter of those two topics in a moment.
As far as the hockey, Lyon enters Year 2 in the Flyers' organization with his head securely focused on playing the game, whereas this time last season, his mind was spinning in different directions.
“Last year, training camp was a novelty,” Lyon said last week. “This year, I know what to expect and I know where I can push the limits and I feel I’m coming in to do damage, rather than coming in to see what’s going on. It’s amazing the difference in mentality between Year 1 and Year 2. Honestly, the confidence level is so much better.”
Handling and maintaining his responsibilities as a professional were a big chunk of Lyon’s adjustment, as was trying to find answers to his own hypothetical questions.
“Where’s this guy at? What’s this guy doing? Who’s being drafted and all that nonsense,” Lyon said. “Now I’ve tried to change my mindset and say, ‘Let’s just focus on making Alex Lyon the best hockey player he can be and let the chips fall where they may.’ I think I’ve been improving more and more because I’ve been so happy. Once you cut out that other stuff, there’s not that much to worry about.”
An unknown commodity a year ago, Lyon exceeded expectations in his first year in Lehigh Valley working in tandem with Anthony Stolarz, who spent an early part of the season with the Flyers. Now that Stolarz has reinjured the meniscus in his left knee, Lyon now has less competition for the starting job in Lehigh Valley and one fewer obstacle on the organizational depth chart in the event Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth suffer an injury.
“To see him build on his year last year, he did a real good job,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He wasn’t a guy that was talked about a whole lot, but he did have a real solid year last year in Lehigh Valley. He just has to improve on that and keep building. I know he’s had a good summer. He’s very dedicated in the way he works at his game. Now he’s got to carry that through to a good training camp up here, and I hope over the next few weeks he can have a real solid body of work.”
Indeed, Lyon also has the mentality to play the position. He left Yale University just six credit hours shy of finishing his degree in political science, and he can’t graduate until he returns to the New Haven, Connecticut campus to write his senior thesis on ... global nuclear war. Considering the state of current affairs with Kim Jong Un and North Korea, that thesis appears to be writing itself.
“Nuclear weapons really do interest me,” Lyon said. “It’s an interesting philosophy because nuclear weapons are the best deterrent for nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction — it’s a buzz phrase and you would use it in every single test you would write. Mutually assured destruction is: If Russia bombs us with a nuclear weapon, it's mutually assured that we’re going to bomb each other. It’s over!”
Now you have gained some insight into what runs through the mind of a goaltending Ivy Leaguer who wants to experience the world, as he puts it, “On his own terms” and as a “free spirit.” This past November, the free-spirited Lyon was eligible to vote in a Presidential election for just the second time in his life.
“It’s interesting, psychology and politics — those two things came together in the last election,” Lyon said. “It’s so interesting to see why people are doing what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why they’re voting certain ways. I think that’s what it actually comes down to. There’s such an interesting mindset behind everything that’s going on. It’s just all intertwined for me.”
Questions one day Lyon will attempt to answer, but before he resumes his work of stopping global catastrophe, the Flyers have a much more narrow-minded focus for him: just stopping the puck.