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Flyers Defenseman Tony DeAngelo: ‘I’m Absolutely Not Racist at All’

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Tony DeAngelo, Philadelphia Flyers
New Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo, wearing a Jimmy Hayes cap, spoke to the media in a Zoom call on Saturday morning.

Normally, acquiring a gifted player who grew up in South Philly would thrill the Philadelphia Flyers’ passionate fan base.

Not this time.

This time, fans are divided.

Tony DeAngelo, 26, the controversial defenseman the Flyers acquired Friday from Carolina for three draft picks, gets mixed reviews from the people who pay his salary, which is reported to be $10 million over two seasons.

Some don’t like his racist past. Some don’t like dealing draft picks — a second, third and fourth — when the team should be in rebuilding mode. Some don’t like the way his past conduct — being thrown off the Rangers, and twice suspended from his junior league — has indirectly smeared his Philly roots.

In a poll I ran on Twitter, almost 1,700 voted. Fans weren’t excited by the deal. Nearly 40 percent called it a so-so trade, 30.5 percent said they hated it, and 29.7 percent said they loved it.

DeAngelo says he has grown up. Says he wants to remain with the Philadelphia Flyers for a long time. Says he is excited to join his former Rangers teammate, Kevin Hayes, and be coached by John Tortorella.

Says he is not a racist.

Exciting time

In a Zoom call with reporters Saturday, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenseman sounded genuinely excited to be playing in his home city. He spoke authoritatively about what ailed the Flyers the last  two seasons, saying he watched a lot of their games two years ago after being kicked off the Rangers for getting into an altercation with a teammate.

He vehemently denied he was a racist, though he was twice suspended from the Ontario Hockey League for violating the league’s policy on homophobia, racist, and sexist language.

“I’m absolutely not racist at all,” said DeAngelo, who termed some of the stories written about him as being inaccurate. “There was something I said back in junior; people don’t know what it is. I’m not going to go into it. But it was something I regretted. A friend of mine on my team, we had an argument and we remained friends. The other stories that have come out are totally false, and I think that’s why teams in this league have known that.”

The Flyers will be his fourth team in seven years.

DeAngelo said “people are going to get to know me well and really enjoy my game and the kind of person I am off the ice as well.  I don’t need to say too much about that. I’m just looking forward to proving (myself), as I did in Carolina this past year and doing the same thing here.”

Born in Washington Township (Sewell), DeAngelo grew up in South Philly.

Diehard Flyers fan

“We’ve been here forever and we’ve been die-hard Flyers fans until the day of my draft, when I didn’t get picked by the Flyers.”

In the 2014 draft, the Flyers took Travis Sanheim with the 17th overall pick in the first round at (ironically) the Wells Fargo Center.  Tampa Bay took DeAngelo two picks later.

“Now,” DeAngelo said, smiling, “we’re happy to be back on board.”

Known for his offense and puck-moving ability, DeAngelo said he hasn’t discussed what his role will be with the Flyers, but said he will bring “an edge” to the ice.

“Obviously, defense is the most important part when you’re a defenseman,” said DeAngelo, who had 51 points and a plus-30 rating for powerful Carolina last season. “I think that’s been getting better and better each year. I thought I had a real good year this year, so obviously with a good team it makes it a little easier on you, I guess. But I thought I did a real nice job to improve there, and I continue to get better on that side of the puck.”

He was asked how he saw himself fitting into a Tortorella-coached team.

“I’m willing to do whatever the coach wants. It’s his team,” said DeAngelo, who could quarterback the power play. “Whatever he says needs to be done, that’s what we’re going to do. … The only way you can win in this league is if you have guys (who have) bought in … 23 guys.”

Within a team structure, he added, “I think everybody’s play comes out, too. If you’re an offensive guy, your play is going to be able to come out. Coaches know they have to get guys doing what they do best. So we’re all going to play within structure, and then our individual skills are going to have to show, too.”

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