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Flyers laying foundation to restore status as premiere destination

© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

On this day — February 9 — 58 years ago, Philadelphia was awarded an NHL franchise. A lot has happened since then, some good, some less good, but the team that came to be known as the Flyers is working to get back to the peaks it’s reached during that time, trying to become the team it’s been in the past that players around the league want to be a part of.

It’s not quite time yet for the Flyers to make a splash and nab a marquee player in July’s annual free agent frenzy. Don’t expect it until Russian phenom Matvei Michkov finishes out his contract obligations in the Kontinental Hockey League and joins the team in Philadelphia.

In the meantime, the Flyers are trying to plant early seeds to reestablish themselves as an attractive landing place when that time does come.

We’ve talked previously about management’s dedication to transparency with the fan-base. So far, that venture has paid dividends in mending a shattered relationship left by the ghosts of previous regimes.

There were some clear attempts to revive old traditions. The team brorught back the trademark double logo at center-ice that had long been a staple of the Ed Snider era, and reinstated Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love” as the goal song.

Improving public perception and changing the fan narrative to a positive one is so essential in the modern NHL and to the modern player. If there is even a hint that an organization is in disarray, you have to imagine it factoring into a decision to sign. Whether or not something similar impacted the Cutter Gauthier situation is unclear, but the timing of it — the summer after Chuck Fletcher was fired — suggests there’s certainly a possibility. His quote with Derek Lee of the Sporting Tribune suggested as much:

“It wasn’t one specific reason why I asked for a trade. It was multiple issues that I’d seen over the past year and a half, two years of being under the Flyers organization. It kind of hit me all at once, thinking, ‘I can’t move forward with this, and I really need to step up for myself and see what’s best for my future,’ and that’s what I did.”

Something like this can seriously tarnish a team’s reputation, but the Flyers came out of it mostly unscathed. In fact, it was Gauthier who soured the rest of the league. Scott Hartnell, appearing on Spittin Chiclets, said several teams on Gauthier’s list of preferred destinations declined trade discussions due to how he treated the Flyers. What goes around, comes around.

On January 6, 2022, the Flyers neglected to acknowledge Ed Snider’s birthday. They hosted the Penguins at home that evening, so the omission was glaring, and it upset fans and alumni alike. Two outsiders, Chuck Fletcher and Dave Scott, were at the helm at the time, and it furthered opinions that a once great organization had lost its legacy and identity.

Briere and Jones, two former Flyers who played under Mr. Snider, righted that wrong this year. January 6, 2024 was the Ed Snider Legacy game, and the team honored him with a touching tribute video, appearances from several alumni on the jumbo-tron, and a $300,000 check to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey & Education foundation. Oh, and they earned a chippy, comeback victory over the Calgary Flames in the process. Management knew how important it was to nail that event, and they showed the players their gratitude.

One thing is clear, the Flyers are attempting to cement themselves as a family and alumni-driven organization. They rolled out the red carpet for Mark Recchi’s Flyers Hall of Fame induction and later celebrated the 50 year anniversary of their first cup-winning team during alumni weekend.

Now, they turn their eyes to the future. Just before the All-Star break, Owen Tippett agreed to an 8 year, $49.6 million contract. On motivations for the signing, Tippett joined Jason Myrtetus on Flyers Daily:

“The way the team is moving and the culture they’re building around…it’s pretty special. Obviously you want to be a part of that group and what we have in that locker room is pretty special and something honestly I’ve never experienced in my career to this point.”

“Danny, Jonesy, and Dan want to build a family here and for them to want to commit…it was really hard for me to say no.”

John Tortorella was thrilled, too. Not just for the short-term impact, but for the big picture as well.

“What’s terrific about this deal is how important it is to have a guy who sits there and says Philadelphia’s home…For what’s gone on the last little while in Philly and kind of losing our way…we want this to be a destination. We want players saying ‘you know what, I want to check out that organization.'”

“When you start getting to those times, and we’re not there yet, and signing free agents, we want people to say that’s a place I’ve really got to look hard at.”

Whether these efforts will be successful is anyone’s guess, but you have to admire the process.

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