What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

What it was like to go back to work at Flyers training camp

These are different times; or the new norm as many like to call it.

Everyone is tasked with adjusting to these times. For me, on Monday, July 13, I was tasked with my own adjustments ... in order to watch and report on hockey. Suffice it to say, for me, life — and my simple adjustments, considering all things — could be much worse. I was happy to return to Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, for the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days.

The Flyers were back to work at their practice facility with the opening of training camp in preparation for the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament.

Monday, July 13, was different — and that's OK. I'm going to enjoy as we adjust.

Here was a different day at Flyers practice (with plenty of hand sanitizer and wearing my mask):

Checking in

I arrived to the facility at 9:23 a.m. and hung tight in my air-conditioned car. Not too bad, right?

Gritty was probably back inside on the elliptical and hitting the bench press. Respect the grind.

Typically, I would walk in through the front doors of Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at my own leisure, head upstairs, get situated and prepare for the day at hand.

On Monday, though, media members permitted back to the facility had to enter between 10-10:30 a.m. for a temperature and symptom check. Wearing a mask (as all were in the facility), I passed my temperature check, filled out a form answering symptom questions, and was on my way upstairs.


Watching practice

There is a ton of space in the common area upstairs. Instead of all reporters cozying up in the more confined media room on that level, the Flyers and Skate Zone set up separate workstations for each writer in the common area with proper social distance.

Very safe and very nice of them.

At one point, I think I nearly drank my coffee through my mask; we made it work.

But I digress.

When the morning and afternoon practices were held, we could stand and watch from the media room, which has windows that overlook the ice. We were asked to maintain social distance when doing so ... no biggie at all. When practices wrapped up (or whenever we needed to), we could head back to our individual and assigned workstations.

During development or training camps, entering the rink area and watching along the boards is an awesome luxury. It provides a terrific vantage point to shoot video, take notes, snap pictures, analyze drills and gain a greater insight of the competition.

Currently, no media members are allowed to enter either of the two practice rinks and understandably so. Not the end of the world as we can still observe from upstairs with a great view.


Good to see faces, even on video

Normally with practice, whenever the first skater heads off the ice following a practice, we all scurry downstairs and toward the Flyers' dressing room for access to interview players and head coach Alain Vigneault.

Conversing with players in person and 1-on-1 is what I've missed greatly during the coronavirus pandemic. Building relationships and telling stories are what make our jobs special. Access to a locker room is so beneficial because it offers you an emotional sense for the story, allows you to see and feel beyond the score of a game and what happened on the ice.

Right now, having close interactions in media scrums or tight quarters is not feasible or logical. But it's still great to see faces of colleagues or Flyers personnel from a distance or via video.

From our workstations using Webex, we were able to interview Vigneault, general manager Chuck Fletcher and players Matt Niskanen, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny.

Raising your hand virtually ain't so bad. It's like a supremely organized way to work in your question. And everyone could hear us through our masks.


Stick taps to all those involved

So many deserve a ton of credit for creating a safe environment in uncharted waters.

Three folks who are always helping and have made these waters as smooth as possible for us media: Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill, director of public relations Joe Siville and manager of broadcasting and media services Brian Smith.

Following the final interview around 3:30 p.m., it was time to pack up and hit the road. We usually can stay as long as we'd like to write and work but the Flyers have asked media members to exit the premises approximately 15 minutes after the last virtual press conference. Again, completely understandable.

I've always liked staying at the facility to work. It's pretty quiet and there's a rink. Then I can drive home at a calmer hour.

But these are different times and we all need to adjust. Like a hockey team, everyone plays a part.

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2020 NHL playoffs: Flyers training camp roster, practice schedule for 24-team tournament

For the first time since March 11, a span of 124 days, the Flyers were back at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone on Monday to hold formal training camp practices as they gear up for the return-to-play 24-team tournament.

The Flyers are allowed a max of 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies for training camp, which will be held over the next two weeks before the team travels to its Eastern Conference hub city Toronto. Come the tournament, the Flyers' roster can consist of at most 31 players, which includes goalies.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday and all camp sessions are not open to the public. The Flyers will have one group of players practice from 10:30 am. to 11:30 a.m., and a second group practice from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. The team will release the list of players in each group later in the morning.  

For more information on the Flyers' tournament schedule and key dates ahead, click here.

Below is the Flyers' camp roster:

Forwards

Andy Andreoff, No. 10
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, No. 62    
Connor Bunnaman, No. 82     
Sean Couturier, No. 14
Joel Farabee, No. 49
Morgan Frost, No. 48
Claude Giroux, No. 28
Derek Grant, No. 38
Kevin Hayes, No. 13
Travis Konecny, No. 11
Scott Laughton, No. 21
Tyler Pitlick, No. 18
Michael Raffl, No. 12
Nate Thompson, No. 44
Carsen Twarynski, No. 81
James van Riemsdyk, No. 25  
German Rubtsov, No. 50
Jakub Voracek, No. 93   


Defensemen

Justin Braun, No. 61
Mark Friedman, No. 59    
Shayne Gostisbehere, No. 53
Robert Hagg, No. 8
Philippe Myers, No. 5
Matt Niskanen, No. 15
Nate Prosser, No. 39
Ivan Provorov, No. 9
Travis Sanheim, No. 6
Andy Welinski, No. 3
Tyler Wotherspoon, No. 26
Egor Zamula, No. 54


Goalies

Brian Elliott, No. 37
Carter Hart, No. 79
Alex Lyon, No. 34
Kirill Ustimenko, No. 67

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

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Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

Finding the Flyers' best 1st-round matchup for Hart

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NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

NHL schedule 2020: Qualifying round to begin Aug. 1; Flyers vs. Bruins kicks off round robin Aug. 2

Come Aug. 2, it will have been 145 days since the Flyers last played a game that counted.

If all goes as planned for the NHL, Aug. 2 will be when Flyers hockey officially returns — and when the team will start (or restart) its push for the 2020 Stanley Cup.

On Friday night, the NHL and NHLPA completed the ratification process of the league’s return-to-play plan and four-year CBA extension, setting up for a resumption and conclusion of the 2019-20 season in the anticipated 24-team tournament (see full details and new NHL calendar here). In the announcement, the schedule for the qualifying round/round robin was released.

As we know, the Flyers have a solid outlook in the round-robin tourney as the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed and with a chance to climb to improve their first-round matchup (see story).

Let's analyze the Flyers' round-robin slate and outline the full Eastern Conference schedule from Aug. 1-9 in Toronto:

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 1 Bruins, Aug. 2

The Flyers will start things off against the NHL-best Bruins, who were the last team the orange and black played before the suspension of the regular season on March 12 (see story).

Alain Vigneault's club went 2-1-0 in three regular-season matchups with Boston. The Bruins finished the regular season with an NHL-high 100 points and a league-low 2.39 goals allowed per game.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is 15-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 22 career games against the Flyers.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Carter Hart has four career wins over the Bruins, tied for his most against any NHL club. The 21-year-old is 4-1-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in five lifetime matchups vs. Boston.


No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 3 Capitals, Aug. 6

When looking at the regular-season results, this is likely the most favorable matchup for the Flyers in the round robin.

The Flyers went 3-0-1 over four regular-season matchups with the Capitals, outscoring Washington 16-8 and earning a point in all four meetings.

The Capitals are the Capitals, though, a team that scored the NHL's second-most goals per game at 3.42 and has a guy named Alex Ovechkin (he went scoreless against the Flyers during the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career).

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: Washington has the NHL's top power play percentage since 2000 but the Flyers held it to 1 for 17 on the man advantage during the four regular-season matchups.

No. 4 Flyers vs. No. 2 Lightning, Aug. 9

Among the round-robin teams, the second-seeded Lightning were the club that gave the Flyers the most trouble in the regular season. The Flyers dropped two games in regulation to Tampa Bay — albeit one was a 1-0 defeat and the other was a chippy 5-3 loss with an empty-netter during the final 22 seconds (see story).

The Lightning can flat-out score, putting up a league-best 3.47 goals per game.

However, the Flyers hung with Tampa Bay in other statistical categories.

Interesting stat from the Flyers' perspective: The Flyers are 2-6-3 over the last four seasons against the Lightning.

Here's the rest of the East's qualifying round/round robin schedule (team on left signifies "road" team). Per the league Friday night, a complete broadcast schedule will be released in the coming days.


Aug. 1

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 2

• Flyers vs. Bruins

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

Aug. 3

• Capitals vs. Lightning

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins

Aug. 4

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders

Aug. 5

• Lightning vs. Bruins

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens

Aug. 6

• Capitals vs. Flyers

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

• No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers (if necessary)

Aug. 7

• No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets (if necessary)

No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers (if necessary)

• No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens (if necessary)

Aug. 8

• Bruins vs. Capitals

• No. 11 Rangers vs. No. 6 Hurricanes (if necessary)

• No. 12 Canadiens vs. No. 5 Penguins (if necessary)

Aug. 9

• Flyers vs. Lightning 

• No. 9 Blue Jackets vs. No. 8 Maple Leafs (if necessary)

• No. 10 Panthers vs. No. 7 Islanders (if necessary)

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More Flyers analysis for 24-team tournament

Flyers release training camp roster as they gear up for 24-team tournament

• What to know as NHL, NHLPA finish big step, announce schedule

5 questions on Flyers' chances in 24-team tournament

Predictions for Flyers' best Game 1 lineup to start 24-team playoff

Who are the Flyers' top 5 reinforcements for 24-team tournament?

Things get even better for Flyers in NHL's 24-team tournament

Finding the Flyers' best 1st-round matchup for Hart

Flyers have two top 50 pending UFAs; will they re-sign them?

Hockey insider details Flyers’ hotel, importance of training camp 

Key dates, protocols announced as Flyers near next steps toward return