STONE HARBOR, N.J. — Jim McCrossin, the Flyers athletic trainer and mastermind behind the Trial on the Isle event, walked around Stone Harbor Elementary School on Tuesday with nothing but a smile on his face.
It’s the same smile he’s had for 15 years since the Flyers first began the festivity. It’s grown in size — and in popularity — since its inception, and it’s been a major fundraiser for the team with all proceeds going to the Veteran’s Haven South program, which serves to house homeless veterans.
McCrossin wasn't the only one smiling, of course. Fans were laced with ear-to-ear grins when they met their favorite prospect for a picture or an autograph, and the players, too, were beaming when they saw children reacting to meeting a professional hockey player.
“It’s a lot of fun,” top forward prospect Travis Konecny said. “We enjoy it. It’s the finisher to our camp. It’s a good event for us. The fans all love it.”
“It’s always different when you do something off the ice,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “It’s a fun activity for us and the fans."
McCrossin and the Flyers have no plans of ever leaving Stone Harbor, where they conclude development camp each year.
And why would they?
As the Flyers' trainer put it, the fan base “isn’t just South Philly, it’s not just down Broad and Pattison."
“It’s down here right by the Atlantic Ocean,” McCrossin said. "Every year, the Flyers' fans do not disappoint and hopefully [the team] doesn’t disappoint the fans, either.
“They’ve welcomed us with open arms.”
The Flyers' fans who showed up certainly left with memories they’ll always remember as the prospects continued to put on a good show in the competitions and kept engaged with the crowd throughout the event.
There were plenty of highlights from the all-day event. Here are a few takeaways from this year’s Trial on the Isle:
Get your Fudgie Wudgies
Imagine Travis Sanheim coming up to beachgoers lounging in their chairs, asking them if they want to buy an ice cream sandwich? For the fans that showed up on Tuesday, they didn’t have to do much imagining.
It really happened.
McCrossin added the “Fudgie Wudgie” event for the first time. In between various obstacles along the beach, such as doing 15 sit-ups in the ocean or bear crawling under some bars, the prospects had to lug along an ice cream cart and sell as many bars as possible.
“It’s definitely really cool,” 2016 second-round pick Carter Hart said. “It really shows the character of this organization. It shows they also like to have fun and get away from the game, as well.”
What was the point of having the 34 prospects going umbrella to umbrella?
“It’s all about our players introducing themselves to the Flyers community,” McCrossin said. “You put in a little flavor — obviously chocolate flavor — and they help raise money for the event.”
McCrossin said he has seen kids flock to the Fudgie Wudgie man for years. Instead, he wanted his players to be the ones that flocked to the kids and parents.
Good Humor donated all of the ice cream sandwiches and bars with the money raised by the prospects going to charity.
A pair of young Flyers 'can’t get away'
With the players gathered for lunch at the Yacht Club, in walked a 5-foot-11 defenseman who took on some playful jabs.
“You can’t get away,” some joked.
Shayne Gostisbehere, who previously spent four years at development camp until this summer, made a guest appearance, bringing along Lehigh Valley goalie and Flyers emergency goalie, Anthony Stolarz.
The two hung around with the players, eating lunch with the group and stopping by for the volleyball event. It was there that the fans first saw the Calder Trophy runner-up, which led to some joyous yells of “Ghost” from the fans. He and Stolarz proceeded to take photos and sign autographs with donations going to charity.
On Monday, Gostisbehere was hanging around Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first session of development camp. He said “everything is going well” since his hip/abdominal surgery.
“You kind of get that itch to get back out there,” Gostisbehere said.
That itch took him an hour and a half down to Stone Harbor.
Water sports are no joke
The players took to the water at the Stone Harbor Yacht Club, where they competed in various swimming relays, water basketball and paddleboarding.
When you put over two dozen athletes into a body of water, it shouldn’t be a surprise when things get competitive.
“It’s always fun doing different activities and some of us are pretty competitive, so we take it very seriously,” Konecny said. “We try to win.”
That competitiveness also comes from the stress that’s displaced after a rigorous five-day training session at development camp.
Getting out on the sand and in the water is a getaway for the players.
“At the rink, I think everyone is more serious trying to have great impressions on the coaching staff and upper management,” Cole Bardreau, a 22-year-old who registered 30 points with Lehigh Valley last season, said. “When you come out here, it’s a chance to let loose and get to know each other a little bit more and just have some fun.”
Bardreau proved to be an example of what happens when competitiveness takes over. Just ask Hart.
“The paddle surfing was going pretty good until Bardreau came on with his kayak and ran us over,” Hart said with a laugh. “We were in first and ended up in last. I’m not the best swimmer in the world. I think I swallowed too much salt water there. I felt like I ate a brick of salt.”
Bardreau saw it differently.
“I was wrecking some people,” he said. “I had some fun with that.”
Philippe Myers visits Trial on the Isle
Absent from development camp after undergoing hip surgery two and a half weeks ago, defensive prospect Philippe Myers was down in Stone Harbor signing autographs and taking pictures, but more importantly, getting reconnected with his teammates.
“It was obviously tough watching the guys playing on the ice when you want to be on the ice,” Myers said. “At the same time, I’m just getting better every day from surgery and that went well, so I’m kind of happy with that.”
Myers is already off of crutches. He says it will be another five weeks until he resumes skating and eight more weeks before he resumes hockey activity.