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September 19, 2005 - Flyers forge togetherness with a test on the water

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Flyers forge togetherness with a test on the water

Inquirer Staff Writer

Jon Sim is no stranger to water. He grew up in the industrial town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

Sim loves the water. Fishing, boating and now rowing.

Well, maybe not so much rowing.

Yesterday, as part of their annual "team building" exercise, the Flyers hit Boathouse Row and cruised the Schuylkill.

"I enjoyed being on the water," Sim said. "I live all around water back home. Whenever you get on the water, it's fun. But it was a little more work than I thought. I've done dragon boat races, but not an eight-man boat. That was pretty neat."

Under coach Ken Hitchcock, the Flyers also have explored the South Jersey Pinelands; gone on a wilderness mission in Banff, Alberta; and been subjected to the emotional and physical rigors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The exercises, performed every September in training camp, are meant to foster interaction on unfamiliar terms to help the players think and act as a unit, rather than as individuals.

"The thing is, we take the players out of their element that they are comfortable in and put them in an uncomfortable or foreign element where they have to work together," Hitchcock said. "You could have 100 meetings and not accomplish anything. Here, we can do it in three hours."

Rowing is not like skating. Different muscle groups are used. Players must act on the commands of the coxswain in unison, otherwise their boat will be out of sync.

"I've never rowed before," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "Working out together in the boats was important because if someone messes up, the whole boats messes up. And that was the point. It's a team building exercise."

The Flyers were supposed to race each other yesterday afternoon, but they were spent.

"When we were going for a warm-up, we thought it was a half hour, and we came back an hour and 40 minutes later," team captain Keith Primeau said. "Everyone's back aches. It was tough with blisters on their hands and feet. We could have gone back out to race, but you might as well give us off [today] because it would have taken that long to recover."

Newcomer Derian Hatcher had the fast boat with Jeff Carter, Seidenberg and Michal Handzus, among others.

"No one wanted to race us," he said. "We had it going good on the water. We had the good boat."

The language barrier was an unexpected problem when it came to the coxswain's commands.

"It's funny," Primeau said, "but when we are playing, I don't look at the language barriers as being difficult. But we had [Branko] Radivojevic in one boat, Handzus in another, [Joni] Pitkanen in another, and it's different. It's a communication pattern. That is where it is important to do these types of team-building experiences."

No one fell into the water. No one accidentally put his foot through a hull. And no one got clunked on the head with an oar. Still, there were some mishaps of sorts.

"My rear-end hurts, my back fell out and I got blisters," offered defenseman Chris Therien. "When you were moving, it was fine. But when you weren't, it hurts."

Sim looked at Therien - nicknamed "Bundy" (that's Al, not Ted) - incredulously.

"Bundy was a mishap," Sim insisted.

How so?

"Wherever he goes, whatever he does, laughter follows," Sim said.

What did he do in the boat that was so funny?

"What did he do?" Sim replied. "That's just it. He did nothing!"