The Flyers believe starting the season in Europe will be a great bonding experience, a time to become closer with the many new players on the roster and the three new coaches.
“You want to get off to a good start, and I feel with us going overseas and spending a lot of time together, hopefully it gives us an edge,” captain Claude Giroux said.
As part of the NHL’s Global Series, the Flyers left for Switzerland on Friday. They will practice Saturday and Sunday, then play Lausanne HC, the Swiss National League team, in an exhibition game Monday night (2 p.m. here; NBCSP+, NHL Network).
They will travel to the Czech Republic on Tuesday and, after a day off to explore the city, will practice and prepare for the season opener Friday night against Chicago at Prague’s O2 Arena. The game will begin at 2 p.m. here and will be shown on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the NHL Network.
“It’s a huge bonding experience for us,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We’re going over there, just the boys, and we’re not going to have too many family or friends coming. It’s good for us. This is a little different than what we’ve done in the past. We’re going to be in a different country, and it’s just going to be the boys and the coaching staff.
“We’re going to grow as a team and really become closer and start the season the right way.”
It’s the first time the Flyers, who joined the NHL in 1967, will be playing in Europe.
“We’ll face challenges through it,” center Scott Laughton said about the travel and the six-hour time change, “and we have to really take care of our bodies. But I think it’s a cool experience for our group.”
Most Flyers are excited about traveling to Switzerland and then starting the season in Jake Voracek’s homeland, the Czech Republic.
Matt Niskanen isn’t one of them.
“I would prefer to stay here, personally,” said Niskanen, a veteran defenseman who has never started a season in Europe in his 12-year NHL career. “But the team aspect of it will be a good thing. Personally, I’d rather stay and let some other team go. I’m kind of a homebody. But that’s OK. It’ll actually be perfect for the new guys to spend a lot of time together.”
The Flyers have had slow starts in recent years, but general manager Chuck Fletcher, who is in his first full season with the team, believes traveling to Europe might work to their advantage.
“The way training camps are these days, most of your road trips are up and back on the same day,” Fletcher said. “The players are in for two or three hours every day, and then they leave. This year, with the new coaching staff and some new players, I think it’s actually going to be an advantage to get overseas and get together with our group. Have everybody get to know each other and spend time with each other.”
After starting the season Friday in Prague, the Flyers will return for their home opener five nights later, Oct. 9 against New Jersey. They then will travel to Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton for three games in five nights.
“Obviously, it adds an interesting wrinkle. You play that first game and have a lot of time [before] the second one,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said. “It makes it that much more important. You want to start out on the right foot.”
Including Switzerland, they will have traveled about 13,600 miles to play just five regular-season games.
Fletcher took the glass-is-half-full view on it.
“That Western Canadian swing is never an easy trip,” Fletcher said. “The fact we are doing it earlier in the season, when we still have fresh legs, I think is advantageous versus maybe having to do that in the middle of the season when you’re in a tough stretch.
"Again, I think there’s a lot of positives to traveling early in the season. Time will tell. I think it’s an opportunity for our group to come together quickly.”