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October 17, 2005 - Flyers head to West Point for team bonding

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Flyers head to West Point for team bonding


By WAYNE FISH
phillyBurbs.com

Be it Banff, Amelia Island or West Point, the Ken Hitchcock-led Flyers have been big on team-building retreats.

But all those sojourns took place with an established, veteran hockey team that really didn't have a lot of new components.

This week's return visit to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is a different story.

There are as many incomings as incumbents.

So Hitchcock is looking forward to the chance to have his team do some serious bonding during a three-day stay that begins this afternoon after a morning practice in Voorhees.

"We're going to take the team-building up another level," Hitchcock said. "We're going to start talking to each other and build a commitment.

"We know who we are now. We've played five games, we have a pretty good idea who we are."

What the Flyers are could be best described as an amalgamation of winners from other teams.

There are former Stanley Cup champions in the form of Peter Forsberg, Derian Hatcher, Turner Stevenson, Mike Knuble and Jon Sim. More recently, there are Calder Cup champions such as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dennis Seidenberg, Joni Pitkanen, Patrick Sharp and Antero Niittymaki from the Phantoms.

"They know what it feels like," Hitchcock said. "This is what we're going to talk about ... what it feels like to be a winner and a champion."

It won't be all strictly hockey business, of course. Some of it will be interaction with the military folks at the Army's largest learning center.

In 2003, right after the start of the war in Iraq, the Flyers paid their first visit to the institution. One of the highlights of the agenda was the chance for the Flyers to witness an unannounced mock terrorist attack and counterterrorist "cleanup" operation.

Click here!

From that, the Flyers learned how the U.S. Army special operations forces use elements such as communication and teamwork to achieve success.

The Flyers don't play again until Saturday night in Toronto, so there will be plenty of time to get to know one another.

"I think it's going to be a good week for us," Michal Handzus predicted.

"It's a learning experience for us,'' Robert Esche said. "We're all looking forward to the trip up there, relax, work hard in practice and when we get back I'm sure we'll have a lot more on each guy."

Although only 25, Simon Gagne is one of the veterans on this club.

Only Eric Desjardins has been around longer. Gagne believes the trip can only help bring the team closer together.

"When you get the guys together as a team, it's a good thing, it doesn't matter where you're going," he said. "[At] West Point, especially with what the country is going through right now, the tough things they've gone through, you realize what a great chance we have to be hockey players."

Captain Keith Primeau is a big believer in the process. In fact, he says it's essential.

"To build a team, we need to get together in locations like this. We'll get together for 48, 72 hours and it's important for team building," he said.

The Flyers will practice at Army's Tate Arena rink on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. They will have lunch with the Army college hockey team on Wednesday before returning by bus to New Jersey.