This year, Laviolette finally found an opportunity. With a week between preseason games and their practice facility in the midst of a remodeling, the Flyers will descend on quaint Lake Placid (population 2,521) today for 4 days of practice and off-ice activities.
The Flyers will be skating at Herb Brooks Arena - site of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" triumph over the Soviet Union - but that isn't why Massachusetts-born Laviolette wanted to go there.
"The place has a special meaning, but that's not how I look at this week," Laviolette said. "I think it's a really good spot for us to step out. We've had a big camp here. We can go up there and get off our normal daily routine, spend some time working on some things. We don't do that anymore. I feel like it's a lot of time spent in a big rink or a city."
The Flyers' last preseason trip was to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 2008 under John Stevens. Laviolette took the Islanders to Lake Placid as their head coach more than a decade ago.
Most everyone has heard the echoes of the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 or has seen the movie "Miracle," yet only three of the 29 players accompanying the Flyers to Lake Placid were alive in January 1980: Kimmo Timonen (born 1975), Hal Gill ('75) and Mark Streit ('78).
Timonen hails from Finland, which lost in the subsequent gold-medal game to the Americans, though most believe the United States' win over the Soviets was for gold.
Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen had a spot on that Miracle on Ice team but chose to sign with the St. Louis Blues to support his family after his father had fallen ill.
"I knew just about everybody on the team between trying out with them and playing college hockey against them," Mullen said. "I was proud of them. It was a great team and a great accomplishment. My dad got sick and I had to make a decision. I think I made the right one for me."
Mullen, the first American to score 500 goals, retired just before NHL players were allowed to participate in the 1998 Olympics and never got a shot at gold. He did win three Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.
In addition to 3 days of on-ice practice, Laviolette has some "interesting things planned for the players" off-ice. It's not a rarity in the NHL these days: Nashville players went fishing together yesterday.
"I've never been to Lake Placid before, so it will be interesting to see the history of the town," Scott Hartnell said. "I think everything's a little messed up here, being at the Wells Fargo Center with Voorhees being under construction. To get away from all the distractions and get away with the boys, to have a couple good dinners and to have some good workouts and good practices is always exciting."
The Flyers trimmed their roster to 29 players yesterday and there were quite a few surprises. First-round pick Samuel Morin was sent back to his junior team in Rimouski, Quebec, after a strong debut in exhibition games.
Veteran tryout Hal Gill, 38, will remain with the Flyers. Laviolette said Tuesday he likes Gill playing in a shutdown role against an opponent's top lines. Fellow 6-6 tower Oliver Lauridsen also made the list.
At forward, Chris VandeVelde - who played in 11 games for the Oilers last season - came out of nowhere to make the trip. VandeVelde, 26, has an AHL-only contract and is technically with the Flyers on a tryout deal. He beat out Tye McGinn, Jason Akeson and Nick Cousins, who were all assigned to Adirondack.
Highly touted winger Michael Raffl survived the first round of cuts to be among the 17 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. He will compete with Scott Laughton, 19, for a spot.
Ben Holmstrom, Kris Newbury and Yann Danis also made the roster, but are expected to be placed on waivers with the intent of being sent down as soon as today, according to the club's website.
Practices in Lake Placid are closed to the public . . . ESPN.com announced its rankings of the top players in the game: Claude Giroux (T-10), Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek (T-60) and Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier (T-72) finished in the top 100 among forwards. Kimmo Timonen (17) and Mark Streit (42) were among top 50 defensemen and Ray Emery (24) was among the top 25 goaltenders. Votes were compiled from media members who cover the game, including this one.
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