COACHING THE COMBINE

Recchi, Tocchet return to teach top amateur talent in Philly area

Wednesday, 07.31.2013 / 5:19 PM
Anthony SanFilippo  - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter

VOORHEES, N.J. - Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet were on the ice together again – and no it wasn’t a replay of the 2012 Winter Classic.

Instead, they took the ice at the Flyers Skate Zone Wednesday as part of the activities at the Philadelphia Amateur Hockey Combine.

A three-day session for 64 of the best 13, 14 and 15-year-old hockey players in the area, Wednesday saw the kids being tutored by some top-tier Flyers alumni.

“One of the traditions of the Flyers organization is community involvement and rubbing shoulders with the people who pay our salaries – the fans,” said Flyers Ambassador of Hockey Todd Fedoruk, who was the driving force behind this combine. “Being an employee of the team now, I knew that some of the guys who played here – like Recchi and Tocchet – they understand that tradition and they stay true to it.”

So there they were - along with Fedoruk, Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere and Development coach Derian Hatcher - on the ice offering instruction and advice to some of the top AAA players in the market.

It’s a market that is developing by leaps and bounds – especially from the days when these players played for the Flyers themselves.

“There’s some good kids out there and they ask good questions,” said Tocchet. “They want to know how to get better. They want to know what an NHLer does to improve. They want to know what Claude Giroux does every day on the ice.

“The way youth hockey has developed in this area has been huge. From where it was when I first got here in 1984 to where it is now is amazing. You have to give credit to [Flyers Chairman] Ed Snider who helped develop hockey in this area.”

And Recchi couldn’t agree more.

As some one who gets to travel throughout North America as part of his job as a consultant for the Dallas Stars, Recchi has seen the growth of youth hockey – especially in the United States – since his Flyers playing days, and he admitted that the markets in Pennsylvania that he is so familiar with – both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – are at the top of the list.

“It’s really grown,” he said. “To see kids coming from Philly and Pittsburgh and get drafted or playing pro hockey is exciting. It’s just great. I think it’s the greatest game in the world so when you see kids grabbing onto it and jumping on board it’s a big thing.”

The combine, which concludes Thursday, is a three-day event for teenagers to get themselves seen by both college and college prep schools from around the country.

Scouts from the University of Vermont, Penn State University, Gunnery Prep and Shattuck St. Mary’s, among others, were in attendance Wednesday to watch the kids go through a testing program, practices and eventually scrimmages.

The testing program was set up by SportTesting, which provides high tech equipment that measures and provides athlete assessments.

Sport Testing systems are used for:

-Skills and fitness benchmarking

-Progress tracking and player development

-Talent identification

-Advanced training with instant feedback

This real-time testing and online analytics synchs with bracelets worn by the Combine athletes to track results. All information can be accessed by coaches and scouts on-site, as well as by the athlete online.

The testing consisted of sprints, weave-agility and reaction timing.

The kids were also shown a presentation by College Hockey Inc. to get a better feel for the next steps in their hockey careers.

“The game has really developed in this area to be able to move elsewhere and compete at a higher level,” Fedoruk said. “We’ve established a talent pool in this area that is here for the kids so they don’t have to fly all over the country to get exposure.

“There are a lot more kids playing in this area. The facilities have been put in place and more kids are using them. Kids are playing competitively now and their skills are getting better and it’s time for them to be seen by prep schools and Division 1 colleges and hockey can open up a lot of doors for them.”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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