In what has become an annual gathering, the Philadelphia Flyers and members of several military branches met at the end of the team’s practice session Monday in Voorhees.
Some of the military members were given a chance to go in on a breakaway against Carter Hart. (No one scored.)
Others mingled with the players on the ice.
Both sides had mutual respect for what each other does — the military protecting the country, the players using their unique skills to entertain fans.
“I’m an American citizen, and (the military) do their bleep to let us do our stuff,” Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella said. ” … I talk to you guys about mindset. We can’t get to their mindset, as far as what the people in the military do for us. We don’t even understand their real-life situations in our little bubble here in the National Hockey League.
“So I have a tremendous respect for what they allow us to do with our freedoms.”
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 7, 2022
When coaches “talk about mental toughness and going into the battle as we’re playing an entertainment sport,” there’s nothing that compares to the military, Tortorella said. “I’ve even changed my language and how I talk to the players out of respect to those people that do the real stuff.”
A total of 20 members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard watched the practice before going on the ice with the players and then spending time with them in the locker room.
“These guys are our heroes,” said Dan Taylor, a major in the Pennsylvania International Guard of the U.S. Air Force. “They just made it so nice for us. They really made us feel welcome.”
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Taylor spent a lot of time at Hart’s locker, talking to the Flyers’ standout goalie. Hart showed Taylor and many other military folks his equipment, and was engaged in a long, lively conversation with the men and women.
“They’re great guys. Just regular guys that you like hanging around with,” Taylor said. “I had a 15-minute conversation with Hart, and it’s unbelievable what a great guy he is. He explained different parts of the game to us, and giving us his equipment to put on. Just a really cool guy.”
Taylor wore a hockey jersey that had FREEDOM written on the back of it instead of his name.
The locker-room visit was a lead up to the Flyers’ Military Appreciation game Sunday afternoon against visiting Dallas.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hayes said. “Almost everyone in this room has some sort of ties with the military. It’s easy for us to help them out and do something that brings joy to them, and that’s what we tried to do today.”