The grind of an intense playoff chase and 82-game schedule was interrupted briefly on Monday when the Flyers welcomed a crew of special-needs kids from the area following an otherwise routine practice.
Among the highlights was Joel Farabee being (wink) taken to the ice and pummeled by exuberant 12-year-old Kyle Gonzalez or the instant friendship struck up between Turner Baugh and Travis Konecny. Of course, Konecny (wink) and Baugh checked one another into the boards.
“When I was their age looking up to NHL players, it was a pretty special thing,” said the 22-year-old Konecny. “I’m a softy for kids. I love kids having a smile on their face.”
An exasperated (wink) Farabee tweeted out later on Monday afternoon, “Now I’m 0-3 on fights this year.”
The group was the Flyers Youth Special Team, which consists of players from around the region ages 5 and up.
The Flyers have a crucial week in front of them with games on Tuesday and Thursday against Columbus, the team immediately ahead of them in the standings. Carter Hart, who will start Tuesday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, said he got as much out of the experience as the kids who were trying to beat him.
“There was like five or six guys around the crease trying to bang pucks in and I was trying to keep them out," said the 21-year-old goalie. “It was a lot of fun. I’m just glad they had a good time.”
Baugh and Konecny bonded for a good part of the 20-minute session at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, which included Konecny (wink) getting his stick caught in Baugh’s skates causing the 8-year-old to lose his balance. The Flyers forward immediately was whistled for a tripping penalty by referee Jake Voracek.
“Turner is a hot dog and probably deserved it,” his father, Steve, joked afterward. “It was a dive anyway.”
Kidding aside, Hart said it gave the players perspective on what truly is important -- and it goes beyond getting four points this week against the Blue Jackets. His teammates agreed.
“You never how far this [experience] goes,” Konecny smiled afterward. “This could mean the world to one of those kids. They could have always dreamed of being there [on the ice]. Who knows?”