Flyers

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

philadelphia-rebels-carson-briere.jpg
John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

An opponent's perspective on Flyers' resurgent prospect Jay O'Brien

Jay O'Brien had a BCHL mission in 2019-20.

He was out to regain the bravado that he lost as a freshman at Providence, the get-after-you mindset that made him so appealing to the Flyers in the first round of the 2018 draft.

From Chris Clark's standpoint, the mission was completed. The interim head coach and assistant GM of the Wenatchee Wild saw O'Brien's Penticton Vees plenty during the season.

O'Brien, a 5-foot-11, 184-pound forward rebuilding his brand and penchant for scoring, put up 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in seven games against Penticton's rival Wenatchee.

“Other than the offense, the biggest thing you notice about that kid is that he has a ton of swagger and a ton of confidence," Clark said last month in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He plays on the edge, he likes to get into the verbal battles, he has a ton of swagger. You respect that. Obviously you don’t like to see him do well against you when they have that much swagger but you’ve got to respect a kid that knows what he wants."

(Jack Murray)

The 20-year-old looked like himself again after a difficult transition to the Division I level in 2018-19. With the Friars, O'Brien suffered upper-body injuries and scored five points over 25 games. He had trouble with the strength, pace and lack of space in the college game.

"You never want a year like that," O'Brien said last June, "but in a way, it was helpful for me to light the fire even more."

O'Brien transferred and took his fuel to the BCHL, a junior A league and solid stepping-stone for college-bound players. Yes, it's a different level, but O'Brien went to the BCHL with expectations and met them, a major plus for his development as he heads to Boston University in 2020-21.

With the Vees, O'Brien scored 66 points (25 goals, 41 assists) in 46 games and 10 (five goals, five assists) through five playoff contests before the coronavirus outbreak cut the BCHL season short. O'Brien's nine game-winning goals led the league and his 1.43 points per game ranked third, behind only Kent Johnson (projected 2021 first-round pick) at 1.94 and Philippe Lapointe (Michigan commit) with 1.53.

O'Brien established himself among the BCHL's elite, confidence he'll take to the Terriers.

“Oh without a doubt, him and Kent Johnson, who will be a first-round pick next year," Clark said. "I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. I thought there was a ton of talent in the BCHL this year, but he was definitely one of the top three or four players in the entire league ... not even close.

"He carries a ton of confidence and tremendous amount of swagger — which is good, you need that, you’re an offensive player, you know that every night people know who you are, you’ve got to be able to have that swagger. He definitely did this year. Hopefully for his career moving forward, he continues to develop that and have that — because there’s no doubt when he has the puck on his stick, good things are going to happen nine times out of 10.”

(Jack Murray)

Against Wenatchee, a playoff team itself, O'Brien recorded four multi-point games, including a four-point outburst and an overtime winner. The Wild also held O'Brien to only one assist on three different occasions.

"Extremely talented," Clark said. "He had a large number of points against us unfortunately, scored some big goals against us, just dating back to the last regular-season game, getting the OT winner. He’s just one of those players when he has the puck on his stick, you take notice — you know that he’s got a chance to make something special happen, whether it’s scoring or setting up a guy for an unbelievable look. He’s very gifted offensively, there’s no doubt about that.

"I don’t remember firsthand those games where he only had one assist, but I would be willing to bet he probably had some quality chances. ... I don’t know if we can say we shut him down necessarily, but our guys took a lot of a pride, you want to play against those guys. He comes with a lot of notoriety and well deserved — he’s an unbelievable hockey player."

O'Brien will head to B.U. much more prepared for the Division I competition at 20 years old compared to when he was 18 coming right out of high school.

Clark, who has been with Wenatchee since 2008 and was a graduate assistant for Minnesota State (where he also played), sees a player ready for his second D-I shot.

O'Brien made sure everyone saw that.

“In college hockey, you’re playing against men, you’re playing 24-year-old men," Clark said. "A lot of times in junior hockey, you’re playing against 18-, 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds — we have a limit on 20-year-olds in our league, you can have only six or less. A lot of those kids are still developing, they’re still growing into their bodies, they’re still putting on weight. But when you get to college and you’re playing against a 24-year-old senior, that’s a man, that’s a guy who’s probably ready, given the opportunity, to step in and play professional hockey at a high level.

"So I think that’s a big difference, but I just think with his ability to skate, his ability to think the game at a very quick pace, it’s going to translate. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened his first year at college, but everybody has their ups and downs throughout life — if he considers that a down, I don’t know if he does or not.

"But I would say that he’s going to have no problem when next year he gets to college, he’s going to be a heck of a hockey player.”

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Jeremy Roenick's #AtHomeAllStar video has surprise twist ending

Jeremy Roenick's #AtHomeAllStar video has surprise twist ending

The thing about athletes and former athletes is that they're stuck at home just like the rest of us. Only their homes are way bigger and half of them have putting greens in their backyards.

Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick shared a video where he runs a little sports obstacle course of sorts as part of a #AtHomeAllStar challenge. And he's definitely got a pretty sweet backyard.

Roenick shows of the requisite hockey skills but then dabbles in other sports. It's mildly entertaining and absolutely pointless.

The twist ending is perhaps the best part. I can relate to that part, at least.

I feel like there was a missed opportunity to do a cannonball into that pool though.

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