Flyers try to put Cechmanek incident to rest His playoff histrionics are forgiven, they say

Posted: September 14, 2002

If there is any lingering bitterness about what transpired in April, during Game 4 of the Flyers' playoff series with Ottawa, when goalie Roman Cechmanek tried to surrender, it won't be an issue in training camp.

So said Ken Hitchcock, the Flyers' new coach, and his players after day one of camp, which opened yesterday at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, Camden County.

Team captain Keith Primeau met privately with Cechmanek on Wednesday. Hitchcock had asked him to make certain that if there was any "backwater," it would be gone by the time camp began.

"They needed to deal with it, and Roman is accountable to the group right now," Hitchcock said. "All those issues have been dealt with. Keith talked to him. There was a lot of frustration by both parties."

You might recall that Cechmanek attempted to pull himself out of the game in the second period after a goal by Marian Hossa had given the Senators a 3-0 lead. He stood at center ice, yelling at his teammates and gesturing to the bench that he wanted out.

The next day, teammates fired shots at his head in practice to "send a message," according to one player.

Since then, we have learned that European goalies sometimes express their dissatisfaction with the play of teammates by acting the way Cechmanek did.

But while the Flyers were playing poorly in front of Cechmanek, his behavior was not acceptable in North America.

And that's what Cechmanek's agent, Petr Svoboda, told his client over the summer.

"I said to him, 'Roman, if you are angry at them, you tell them in the dressing room. You don't do it on the ice. You don't show them up in public,' " Svoboda said at the NHL draft in June. "Roman understands now. This will never happen again."

Svoboda said that because of his client's limited English, he could not communicate his angst to his teammates.

"I think what happened last year, it was difficult," Cechmanek said this week. "It was different than what I meant and what it means in Europe. I don't like losing. I was not happy. For me, it is important to explain [that to his teammates].

"It is different [in Europe]. I was a star over there. When I stand up and say something, everybody is listening."

Primeau said that it was best for one player talk to Cechmanek on behalf of all the players.

"It would not be fair to Roman to gang up on him," Primeau said. "So I addressed the issue for the group. We're pleased with his answers."

Several Flyers in addition to Primeau say that the issue is dead as the team tries to move forward under a new coach.

"I just felt [Cechmanek] was really frustrated with the situation and that is how he dealt with it," Primeau said. "It doesn't mean he was right or wrong, only how he handled it. Because of that, we cleared the air."

Hitchcock said that for the Flyers to have success this season, everyone has to have a common goal. There cannot be any finger-pointing left over from last season, he said.

Center Jeremy Roenick, as outspoken as they come, said the same thing when asked whether the Flyers were prepared to put the incident behind them.

"You have to," Roenick said. "We are professional athletes. We have our own job and things to worry about, but, collectively, it is all for the team. You can't nitpick at things that happened last year. We have new goals now."

Cechmanek says that he wants to forget everything about last spring and the Flyers' elimination by the Senators in the first round of the playoffs.

"It's been a long time," he said. "I put it behind me. What happened last season is not important. I need to get ready for the new season and be better physically."

Loose pucks. The Flyers spent a brisk two hours on the ice doing drills, working special teams, working on breakouts and, according to Hitchcock, being "inundated" with information. "If they [understand] 10 percent of it a day, they'll be fine," the coach said. Including off-ice workouts, the session lasted three hours. . . . On the ice, Hitchcock stresses quick movement and positioning. Off the ice, he stresses punctuality. He had the clocks in the dressing room set five minutes ahead so that players wouldn't be late going to the weight room. Tardiness would not be tolerated, he said. "No negotiation," he said, talking about what will happen if a player is late. "Thirty seconds and go home. Just go home and start tomorrow. You can use all the excuses you want. There can't be. What's wrong with showing up five minutes early? We're on a three-hour clock, and every minute counts. I don't like people being late." . . . Paul Holmgren, the Flyers' assistant general manager, said that defenseman Jeff Woywitka turned 19 this month, not 20, as indicated in Thursday's Inquirer. So if Woywitka doesn't make the cut with the Flyers, he will have to return to junior hockey and will not be able to play for the Phantoms. The NHL agreement with the junior leagues calls for the return to juniors of players under age 20 if they don't make NHL rosters.

Contact Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or tpanaccio@phillynews.com.

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