Flyers' community-based Trial on the Isle another hit
STONE HARBOR, N.J. -- Scott Laughton had a bit of a flashback when he found himself on a makeshift street hockey court built on the playground at Stone Harbor Elementary School.
Laughton, the Philadelphia Flyers' 2012 first-round draft pick, was helping lead a hockey clinic for area children, all of whom were 14 and younger. It's a place the 19-year-old center found himself not too many years ago.
"Doing a hockey clinic with kids -- at one point in my life I was doing that with older guys and looking up to them," Laughton told NHL.com. "It's kind of cool to be the guy teaching them stuff."
It was one of many activities the Flyers and some of their top prospects took part in Wednesday during the annual Trial on the Isle, part of the club's week-long development camp.
The day in Stone Harbor included some physical and mental tests, a hockey clinic led by Laughton and Samuel Morin, the Flyers' 2013 first-round pick, an autograph session and beach volleyball.
"It's awesome. I love this stuff," Nick Cousins, a 2011 third-round pick, told NHL.com. "We have such a big fan base, [but] to have this support in the middle of July, it's awesome. It's awesome to see all the fans and I love interacting with them. It's a chance for them to get to know you and put a name with a face. Not only me, but everyone else enjoys it."
The day started with a 1.5-mile run along the beach, followed by team-building exercises as the group worked its way back to the starting point. Among the activities were a Flyers- and Philadelphia-themed trivia contest that saw the penalty for a wrong answer being a dash into the Delaware Bay followed by a roll in the sand to create what Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin jokingly called "sugar cookies."
There also was a team-building exercise that saw the prospects split into groups of four for a race, but there was a twist.
"We took some of their senses out," McCrossin said. "Two of the boys had ear plugs in so they couldn't hear, and two of the boys we blacked out goggles and they couldn't see. They had to have the leadership and trust in their teammates that they weren't going to lead them awry."
The winning group featured Cousins and David Drake wearing the blacked-out goggles and Laughton and Cal Heeter wearing ear plugs.
"My ear plugs fell out halfway through, so I was good to go," Laughton said.
After the beach activities was a trip to the Stone Harbor Yacht Club, where the prospects raced on the bay in paddleboards and kayaks. The day finished with the hockey clinic, the autograph session and the beach volleyball games. Those games, put together by Chris Ho and his staff at East Coast Volleyball, featured teams of four prospects playing four-person teams of fans and members of the community, who bid on the chance to play with the future Flyers.
All money raised from the day-long event will go Flyers Charities, as well as the local American Legion post. McCrossin also said some of the money this year will be donated to the elementary school for students to develop a computer lab for use by military veterans.
The event, which has been part of Flyers prospect camps since 2001, is organized by McCrossin, a Stone Harbor native.
"I think it's great," McCrossin told NHL.com. "My friends, my family, my neighbors, the community of Stone Harbor, they welcome the Flyers. Many of them [the players] come down, they've been part of the community. … It's our home. That's what I try to get through to the players. The Flyers' family is not just Philadelphia. That's our heart and soul there, but the Flyers community is huge. It's like the Flyers Nation. No matter where you go, there's Flyers fans. For these kids to come out here and see this [autograph] line, what you're seeing now, is spectacular."
The hundreds of fans in attendance for the autograph session at the elementary school felt the same way.
Dominic Solina, a 13-year-old hockey player from Deptford, N.J., came down with his younger brother John, 10, and their stepfather, Jack Bruder, to meet the prospects and get autographs.
"I feel really great about it," Dominic told NHL.com. "I like to see all of them, how they'll do and stuff." A defenseman on his hockey team, he said he was most looking forward to meeting Morin. John, a forward on his team, said Laughton was his top target for an autograph.
"It's great," Bruder told NHL.com. "They get to see the future of the Flyers. You have the last couple first-round picks, some of the second-round picks, and guys who will end up being the Flyers of tomorrow."
It wasn't just the Flyers of tomorrow that were in demand. Eight-year-old Ella Sternchos, at the session with her father, Joe, said the Flyer she most wanted to meet was Ian Laperriere, the former Flyer who now works as the team's director of player development.
"It's fun to spend a day with the kids," Joe Sternchos told NHL.com. "It's fun. It's probably the second or third time we've done this."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK