The Flyers on Thursday will play their first game — they host the Chicago Blackhawks — since they received some inspiring words from a Philadelphia sports icon, Dick Vermeil.
The former Eagles coach, at the request of captain Claude Giroux, spoke to the Flyers after their practice Tuesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
"He came in and it wasn't hard for him to grab our attention," winger Matt Read said after Wednesday's practice. "Just the way he talked, his tone of voice, he caught everyone right off the bat. He had some good stories, and it was good motivation for everyone."
Vermeil talked about his days coaching the Eagles, the St. Louis Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs, along with his time at UCLA. He also spun a few tales about John Wooden, the coaching legend of UCLA's powerhouse basketball teams, and what he learned from him.
"He talked about how a group of individuals can become a team and what it takes from management, coaches and players — and how to combine into one, like a big family," Read said. "He talked about having a good environment to produce a winning team."
Vermeil, 81, who owns a boutique winery in Calistoga, Calif., and lives in Chester County, led St. Louis to the Super Bowl in 2000. He coached the Eagles from 1976 to 1982, and directed them into the Super Bowl in 1981.
"He was unbelievable. When he speaks, you listen," winger Travis Konecny said. "It's pretty cool that what he said was directed toward every player in this room and the coaching staff, and management. Everything he talked about involved everybody from head to toe in our organization."
Konecny said Vermiel's message was "just caring for each other and trusting each other, working hard for on another and making sure we're on the same page every day."
"The amount of energy he has and brings to the table was fun to be a part of," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said, adding it's "special and a great opportunity to have a different voice come in from time to time during a busy season."