Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny are polar opposites and best friends | Flyers season preview
Travis Konecny is animated, annoying and endearing, often evoking all of those reactions at once. Nolan Patrick is so laid back that Konecny says he sometimes checks to see if he's asleep.
On the surface, the friendship doesn't make sense – like Bird and Magic, Jordan and Barkley, Belichick and Bon Jovi.
Travis Konecny is animated, volatile, annoying and endearing, often nearly all at once.
Nolan Patrick is so laid back, so reserved, that Konecny says he sometimes checks to see if he's asleep.
"It's like a treasured moment when I get a laugh out of him," the Flyers winger said as the two sat down for an interview together recently. "I'm working for it all the time."
"I don't know how much of a maturity level is there," Patrick said of his friend. "But … he is funny."
And needed, too, for Patrick, a barely 20-year-old center who entered the NHL last season amid great expectations and great apprehension, aware from the start that the core-muscle surgery he underwent would make living up to those expectations almost impossible.
Needed also for Konecny, a flaky 21-year-old forward who, a year earlier had forced his way onto the team with jaw-dropping plays we are now accustomed to seeing, plays that had dissipated as he tried, often futilely, to add thought to the process and evolve into a 200-foot player.
Patrick scored two goals over his first 35 games last season. Whether it was the injury, surgery, or simply a lack of maturity, the center was not in the best shape when he arrived at training camp, and it showed. Hammered into the boards in just his ninth game, he suffered a concussion that kept him out of the next nine and dropped him down to the fourth line.
Konecny had four goals over his first 35 games, finishing more often with a minus than a plus. His mid-ice turnovers, which often came from high-risk, low-reward cross-ice passes, tortured not only his button-down coach but himself as well.
They were two lost puppies, they say now, leaning on each other to keep their confidence, and their sanity.
"He made me feel pretty comfortable when I first got here," Patrick said. "For both of us the start of the year, we both had to work through quite a bit. So it was staying positive with each other. And we were honest with each other about how we were playing. And then when he got going there I was just telling him to keep going, keep playing the way he is. And the same thing for me. So it obviously is pretty special to have a friend like him on the team."
So special that they now live in the same apartment building, cook together, go out together, read each other's moods and, yes, fight "like brothers," Konecny said.
"The guys always say we're like a married couple," Konecny said. "Just arguing all the time."
Konecny, from Ontario, and Patrick, from Manitoba, did not know each other in their previous hockey lives. They had some common friends, though, and more importantly, common interests. Patrick loves to hunt and fish. Konecny loves to hunt and fish.
Hockey talk was soon confined to the rink. Away from it, those other topics ruled the day.
"You need something to get through the hockey season," Konecny said. "Because there's so much hockey. You're at the rink twice a day on game days. And it's not an easy sport. When you're going through the ups and downs, it's overwhelming at points. So if you can go home for a few hours and just shoot the [breeze] about duck hunting or anything. Summer. Girls."
Said Patrick, "There's not much hockey talk."
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Over the second half of the season, Patrick provided glimpses of the player the Flyers drafted second overall, amassing 17 points over his final 25 regular-season games. Konecny's fortunes flipped with the calendar as well. He rolled up 24 points over 22 games spanning late December through mid-February, becoming the sniper his skill set has always indicated he would be and that the Flyers have needed for years.
Not only did he finish as a plus most of those nights, but Konecny's habit of irritating the coach almost disappeared. Except for some off-ice antics — like draping hangers on a team videographer one day as he attempted to record the coach's post-practice comments.
A father himself, Dave Hakstol laughed at that. He also laughed when it was relayed to him after a recent preseason game in Allentown that Konecny had been, moments before, harshly self-critical of himself in a game in which he scored and assisted.
"Probably three years ago he wouldn't have remembered any turnovers," Hakstol said that night. "He'd have remembered only the highlight goal. That's part of becoming a great pro. I like the fact that T.K. is self-critical."
Said Patrick, "The most impressive thing about him is that he could be playing one of his worst games. But he's got the confidence to completely turn it around and have a great period. I think that's something that we're good at helping each other with. You're having a [lousy] period and he's there to say turn the page, get ready for the next one."
If there is a common thread, it's intensity. It manifests through Patrick in a serious, responsible approach, driving the play, passing unselfishly, winning the little battles. Konecny's game mirrors his personality as well — high energy, high risk, high emotion.
He talks trash. Patrick doesn't. Konecny wishes he could see the ice like Patrick does. Patrick wishes he could skate and shoot like his friend does.
Patrick knows why he does things. Sometimes Konecny does, and sometimes — like his nationally televised magic-trick goal against the Bruins last April — he can't even explain what he was thinking.
Or why he gets his jollies trying to get even a smile from his stoic friend, heckling during his interviews, calling him names, poking the bear almost any chance he gets …
"Pats can take only so much of that," he said. "Which is why I've learned to, in the past year — sometimes you need to just shut up. Just — relax, Trav …
"… Watch some TV."
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