The summer of 2021, across nearly all sports worldwide, has brought about massive amounts of change for both athletes and teams. Some clubs have come back with completely different rosters, while others (such as Cleveland’s baseball team) with an entirely different name. This theme of change was really cemented when arguably the most popular athlete in the world, Lionel Messi, swapped Barcelona, a city he’s called home for over twenty years, for Paris in a move that shocked most of the world.
But that’s enough about other sports, this is a hockey blog!
Perhaps no other team in the NHL has done more to overhaul themselves than the Philadelphia Flyers. After what was decidedly an unacceptable season in 2020-21, Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers’ brass went out and made change happen, irrespective of all the moves necessarily being good moves.
Such radical changes have been seemingly set with two goals in mind: improve the team, and change the culture in the locker room. While fans, writers, and analysts can argue over whether their moves accomplished the former of these goals, the latter certainly has, especially with the addition of winger Cam Aktinson.
Having been drafted and played all his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Atkinson played his first full NHL season (he split time between the AHL and NHL in his first two professional years) in 2013-14, and since then, he has won over the hearts and minds of Blue Jackets fans, by all accounts.
In a modern NHL where players are essentially discouraged from showing their personalities, Atkinson rebukes that trend. He simply seems like a leader and a genuinely nice person who has been universally liked by his teammates and coaches alike. He is constantly involved in charities, and makes an effort to interact with fans on and off the ice, and on social media. He meant a lot to Blue Jackets fans, and to the community.
Additionally, much like he did in Columbus, Atkinson seems to be actively making an effort to become engaged with Flyers fans and the city of Philadelphia itself. Now, obviously the video below was produced by the Flyers, but right off the bat he says he’s best friends with Scott Hartnell (whom he played with in Columbus). How can you not like the guy?
Though he’s been far less bombastic than Bryce Harper was when he was new to the city, he’s furthering a familiar trend of running head forward to change with an open mind and eager anticipation. It’s clear that Cam is making an effort to embrace the city with arms open, and at least from what I can tell, fans already love him too.
It was always going to be a match made in heaven when we found out that Atkinson’s wife owns a Gritty t-shirt (no thanks to Hartnell), and that he played a season of college hockey with Kevin Hayes.
Welcome to Philadelphia, Mr. Atkinson.