Four days into the first week of training camp for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs have revealed significant dates for the Philadelphia Flyers. In exhibition play, the Flyers welcome back hockey fans to NHL competition as they face their state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins July 28th. Five days later, Philadelphia begins their round-robin round against the Boston Bruins. A player that has been on the front lines, negotiating a return-to-play for the NHLPA, is James van Riemsdyk. We caught up with van Riemsdyk on a conference call yesterday to understand his journey to these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Stanley Cup Playoff Negotiations
“For what was going on in the world right now and everything in that nature, the deal made sense for how it was structured.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
While there were conference calls featuring negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement, James van Riemsdyk wasn’t directly featured in those. The NHL realized the importance of the state of hockey during a pandemic. The 24-team-playoff format made the most sense to bring a focus back to the league. Instead of only sixteen teams, the 24-team-playoff structure brings attention to eight additional hockey markets in pursuit of a championship. In discussions regarding the NHL return-to-play protocol, van Riemsdyk had a close approach.
“The one thing I did find with being a rep and on a ton of those calls hearing about all the things and thoughts that are going into these things to try to do this in the safest way and mitigate as much risk as possible, I found that the more guys have been informed and involved, the more at ease they were with some of these issues that may have come up.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
Representing the NHLPA means that James van Riemsdyk plays a vital role in securing everything players need to be safe during the pandemic. Players felt more comfortable after learning about testing protocol. It’s common to see players take out extra insurance policies because they’re playing through a pandemic. The NHLPA has openly supported any choice for the players to opt-out of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Opting out never crossed van Riemsdyk’s mind.
“For me and my family, I think they know what everything means to me as far as hockey. Being on the return-to-play committee and seeing some of the ins and outs of some of these decisions, I think they saw the thought that was going into this.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
The Boys Are Back
Bonding together in the Toronto bubble is vital to re-establishing team chemistry. It’s said throughout the 2019-2020 season that the Philadelphia Flyers are a tight-knit group. That synergy formula plays a role in finding success on the ice. Due to the pause, these teammates have been excited to practice with each other again. A return to hockey means a slice of happiness.
“That’s a big advantage when you’re in a situation like this when you have a team that’s really tight-knit and really enjoys being around each other.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
Teammates who are more than ready to return to hockey are a thrill to coach. Alain Vigneault has had quite a debut season in Philadelphia with his roster. Part of what makes Vigneault a Jack Adams Award finalist is his ability to adapt throughout his coaching career. Everyone wants to know if the Philadelphia Flyers can regain their 2019-2020 form. Under Vigneault’s system, the Flyers have invested.
“I think as players we have a ton of confidence in what he wants us to do. It’ll help us be prepared and be ready to play as we go through this process and get to Toronto and start playing games.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
Investing in Alain Vigneault is simple when a player arrives with him from his former team. Similar to Vigneault, Kevin Hayes has impressed in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers. A transplant from the New York Rangers with Vigneault, Hayes knew the standards and expectations on day one. He’s one of the players that has stressed just how tight the Flyers locker room is. Hayes is a morale boost in the locker room and evidence that Vigneault’s system works.
“Certainly we all come in and try to develop our own relationships with the different coaches, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a guy who’s really familiar with and has a good relationship with him and can help us make that process a little more seamless as far as players getting to know him.”James van Riemsdyk; 7/15/20
The Philadelphia Flyers finished second in the Metropolitan Division this season. Qualifying as a round-robin playoff team is a blessing and a testament to the success of the Flyers in 2019-2020. A transition from a rival team doesn’t become any more seamless than that. Philadelphia is a dangerous team in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time Alain Vigneault’s team finished second in their respective division, they reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Check out some more Flyers Check-In’s with other players below:
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