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September 18, 2015

Flyers get back to work with fast opening practice

To hear Wayne Simmonds tell it, players are always more tired than usual after the first day of training camp. Nothing in the summer compares to getting in a full practice with your teammates.

Still, it looked as if the speed of Dave Hakstol’s first official practice as an NHL head coach was something different than most of these Flyers are accustomed to. The lasting image of the day might have been the players hunched over, grasping for air:

“I think that’s the way practice should be all of the time,” Simmonds said. “We ramped it up, it’s day one, and it was really intense. So that’s a good taste of what we’re obviously going to be getting for the rest of the year.”

Let’s not run too far with the narrative, because Craig Berube also made sure his teams were in solid condition. The Flyers were generally happy with what they accomplished on Friday morning at Skate Zone, but that is par for the course on the first day of training camp. Everything is great before a team has to face any adversity.

According to the head coach, Friday’s practice wasn’t even about setting the tone. It was simply about trying to make sure the Flyers got done as much as possible in a short amount of time.

“That’s the pace that we want to practice at,” Hakstol said. “It’s been mentioned that we don’t have a lot of time. So I think It’s real important to get as much work and get up and down the rink and get as much as we can in these first three days when we have the time to do that.”

The next question is who the credit belongs to, either the coaches or players. While it might be easy to play up the “New Sherriff in Town” angle, Hakstol believes the players were ready because they have been working out in Voorhees for about a week together.

For his part, Simmonds brought up another theory for the players’ collective motivation. It’s no secret that the Flyers have struggled out of the gate each of the last three seasons, and the 27-year-old winger said the team is trying to remedy that trend in training camp.

“The coach sets out the game plan and we’re just going to go out there and work hard,” Simmonds said. “We know we had slow starts the last few years. I think we’re really cognizant of that and want to have a good push at the start.”

The session also included portions where play slowed down and Hakstol started installing some of his system. But for at least the opening practice, the speed is what stood out most. 

“It was tough overall,” Jake Voracek said. “We’re all skating, battling, 1-on-1’s, 2-on-2’s, 3-on-3’s. Those are the game situations that you have all game, every game. It’s a positive knowing that we’re jumping into it this early and we just got to keep it going.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann