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Flyers’ trainer Sal Raffa: ‘Every day is a gift’

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Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa with Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers assistant trainer Sal Raffa (right) and head trainer Jim McCrossin (left) with Travis Konecny at All-Star festivities in 2020. Photo: Zack Hill.

Philadelphia Flyers trainers Jim McCrossin and Sal Raffa are going through difficult times. Both have sued the team that still employs them. Both allege they have a rare blood disorder because of exposure to chemicals used in the Zamboni machine at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees.

Their attorneys say the trainers have incurable blood disorders.

McCrossin, 64, said in a text message he has been in a medical trial at the Cleveland Clinic, hoping to manage his pain.

Raffa, 42, contacted Tuesday afternoon in Toronto, where the Flyers are preparing to play tonight, said some days are better than others.

“I’m basically starting treatments right after the season,” Raffa told Philly Hockey Now from a Starbucks. “I’m trying to slow the progression down. That’s pretty much it.”

He was asked if he was going to have chemotherapy treatments.

“It’s a specific drug for the disease,” he said. “It’s twice a week for a year, and then they go back and reassess it.”

McCrossin, the team’s director of medical services, has been with the Flyers for 24 years as the head trainer. Raffa has been an assistant trainer with them since 2006, but before that, worked for the organization as the trainer for the AHL’s Phantoms.

Raffa is trying to stay positive about his condition.

“Like anyone else going through a disease, the support people are giving us has been excellent,” said Raffa, who has two young children. “You take life day by day; you don’t take life for granted. Every day is a gift.”

In a statement released Monday, the Philadelphia Flyers said the claims made by the trainers “have no merit.” They said they could not comment any further because the matter was in litigation.

Raffa and McCrossin allege the Zambonis used gasoline and/or fuel containing or producing carcinogens. The training room where the trainers work is in close proximity to the Zamboni room, where the vehicles idle. The Zamboni room, according to the document filed on behalf of McCrossin and Raffa, lacks appropriate ventilation, causing the trainers to be exposed to the carcinogens.

The trainers’ room is visited by Flyers players who are being treated by McCrossin and/or Raffa.

It is unknown if any of the players have been tested for a blood disorder. A Flyers spokesman said management couldn’t answer any questions because of the lawsuit.

In Toronto, where the Flyers are getting ready to play the Maple Leafs, center Scott Laughton told The Inquirer he “can’t really speak on any specifics, but I’ll touch on when I was signing my deal last year. I reiterated it. I love the (training) staff here. When you’re in a place 8-10 years, you build really close friendships with people.”

Interim coach Mike Yeo was asked how emotional it was to watch McCrossin and Raffa go through health struggles while they still supported the team.

“The organization’s made a statement on this,” he told The Inquirer. “Obviously, it’s a legal situation, so I’m not going to comment on that.”

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