It’s been a tough month and one day for Kevin Hayes.
On Aug. 23, Hayes’ older brother, Jimmy ,died suddenly, and he found himself without his best friend. Ever since then, Hayes has been dreading the public conversation he knew he’d eventually have to have about it, but he also knew it would be an opportunity to share his thanks for all those who reached out to him.
“He was a special person,” Hayes said. “He really enjoyed life and really enjoyed helping others. It sucks that he’s gone and it happened way too fast. I’ll never forget him, obviously.”
Hayes said people from across the hockey community made a strong showing of support. Players like Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban, and Gabe Landeskog, and Penguins president Brian Burke all reached out to him when they heard the news. It made him realize just how “impressive” the hockey community is.
“It’s going to be weird stepping on the ice for the first time, knowing that my brother’s not there,” Hayes said.
“He honestly was my biggest supporter. If I had a bad year, it was AV’s fault. If I wasn’t playing a lot of minutes, he wanted to talk to AV, he wanted to talk to Chuck,” he said, referring to coach Alain Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher.
Hayes hopes that whenever things get rough, he’ll be able to use his brother’s memory as a way to power through.
To add to his list of struggles, Hayes suffered an injury the Monday before training camp and had to undergo abdominal surgery. Vigneault expects he will miss about nine or 10 games.
Hayes also had a sports hernia injury in May. He did his surgery rehab in Philly and felt back to normal, but he started to feel off two weeks before camp. He tried to treat himself with rest, and when he got back on the ice Monday, he felt the best he had in weeks. But as he went for a breakaway he “felt it come apart.” The injury is similar to the one he had surgery for in May, he said.
“I think it’s just unlucky,” Hayes said.
The 29-year-old center has been a Flyer for two seasons and is already a part of the team’s leadership corps. Despite his injury, he’s continuing to play a role by attending practices and meetings during his six-to-eight week recovery. Vigneault “loves” having him around to help in film sessions and to teach the younger players, especially since Hayes has a good understanding of Vigneault’s system.
Being around the team is helping Hayes as much as it helps the team.
“I don’t think my life will ever be the same, honestly, but it is really nice to be here in Philly with the guys,” Hayes said.
Last season, Hayes scored 12 goals and tallied 31 points in 55 games. Over his two seasons in Philadelphia, he leads the team in shorthanded goals (four), ranks third in shots (302), is tied for fourth in goals (35), is fifth in penalty kill time on ice (211:01), and sixth in points (72).
Making the save
Martin Jones connects personally with his new team’s slogan, “Something to prove.”
The phrase, displayed across the chest of Vigneault’s shirt Monday, speaks to the organization’s desire to bounce back from a rough 2020-2021 season. For Jones, it goes back even further.
“The last two seasons in San Jose haven’t been great for me, so I’m ready to come in and have a good season and show I can still play,” Jones said.
The goalie, 31, is hopeful he’ll be able to prove himself and resurrect his NHL career, especially now that he’s been reunited with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. The two worked together when they were both with the Los Angeles Kings, and Jones remembers “Kim and I were able to get me playing some pretty good hockey.” He kept that in mind when he signed on with the Flyers.
Jones will be coming into a backup role behind Carter Hart, whom the Flyers showed their confidence in by signing him to a three-year with an annual cap hit of $3.97 million. There isn’t a set number of games Jones is preparing to appear in; rather, he is going out to compete for minutes.
“My focus is just to help the team win, to be pushing Carter and then competing for a Stanley Cup,” Jones said.
A lucky streak
With 922 consecutive regular-season games played, Keith Yandle has the second-longest ironman streak in NHL history and the longest active mark. That said, the 35-year-old maintains that it’s really about luck more than anything else.
“I think every guy, once you get to this level, has the same type of compete and will to play,” Yandle said. “You want to be out there every day with your teammates. For me, I’ve been fortunate.”
As Yandle starts with a new team, he’s not focusing on the streak but rather each day as it comes.
‘I’m a day-by-day guy,” Yandle said. “I’m sure my wife hates that about me.”
Yandle’s streak almost came to an end in Philly before he joined the Flyers. He had taken a puck hard to the heel in a game against Boston the night before he had to play the Flyers. He was in “unbearable” pain, but the trainers took care of him for hours the night before. The next day, he had recovered enough to go, and the streak lived on.
Yandle enters the season 42 games shy of Doug Jarvis’ all-time record of 964 consecutive games played.
After a relatively tame first day of camp, Rasmus Ristolainen broke out the physicality he’s known for. During warm-ups, he tangled with Connor Bunnaman and shoved him into the boards. He later collided with Nicolas Aubé-Kubel and Morgan Frost. After they got up, Ristolainen and Aubé-Kubel shared some friendly shoves. ... Vigneault was serious about going back to the basics. All three groups spent time practicing what to do on center ice face-offs. “This training camp has been well-laid out,” Vigneault said. ‘We work on a theme for that day.” ... Isaac Ratcliffe had a number of nice goals against Hart, eliciting cheers from his teammates and fans. The 6-foot-6 left winger also lined up next to 5-foot-8 right wing Cam Atkinson a number of times, demonstrating just how big he is. ... It’s Gritty’s third birthday, a “momentous occasion,” in his own words.