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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Professional sports up close

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Philadelphia Flyers host open practice sessions

Going to school in Philadelphia, there are numerous Hawks that double as Flyers fans. What a lot of these Philadelphia sports fans don’t know is that almost all Flyers practices are free and open to the public and take place at the team’s practice facility in New Jersey.

The hardest part of the experience is figuring out when the open practices take place. The team doesn’t list its practice schedule on its website, so if you’re like me, you may have to monitor the Twitter account of Sam Carchidi, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who covers the Flyers, for exact dates. Normally, practices are announced either a few hours before they take place, or if you’re lucky, the night before.

The team practices at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., a 30-minute drive from campus. To take an Uber there can range from $36-$46 one-way, so grab your own car, or a friend with a car.

Trisha Maleno of Springfield, Pa., an avid Flyers fan who enjoys attending practices at the rink, was there the day I visited.

“These men are paid thousands of dollars to shoot pieces of vulcanized rubber with a composite stick,                                                                                                                                    and to fans, these are our idols,” she said. “We love them, so watching them in a smaller rink, just working on their play is amazing.”

Another fan, a retired school teacher, was there trying to get enough pucks signed to make a raffle basket for her old school. She had a big sign pressed against the glass that read “If you throw me a puck, I’ll give you a cookie,” as well as a batch of homemade cookies. She seemed thrilled when Flyer’s center Nick Cousins smiled at her sign and threw her a puck.

Practice length is different for each player. Some players are on the ice for 45 minutes and others are there for over an hour. A typical practice will begin at 10:30 a.m., but the start time changes depending on the team’s game schedule.

Zack Hill, senior director of communications for the Flyers, said the benefits of open practices are obvious.

“It permits fans to see the Flyers up close,” he said.

This is such a great opportunity because it is free for fans to see one of their favorite teams up close. Not all fans can afford to sit front row, up against the glass for a game so this gives those fans the opportunity to get that experience without paying over $100.

Teams like the 76ers and the Eagles will have open practices once in a while, but not like the Flyers who make almost every one of their practices open. For example, the Eagles have one or two training camp practices open but again nothing to the scale that the Flyers have.

After the practice that I attended came to an end and players started to skate their way off the ice, a fan tipped me off that players sometimes will stop their cars on the way out of the rink parking lot in order to greet fans.

I scurried my way out the front doors and walked around until I saw a metal barricade. I was soon joined behind the barricade by six to seven other fans waiting for the chance to get an autograph.

It is definitely a waiting gamble, as some players do not come out right after practice and others will not stop for fans at all. It took around 45 minutes for the first player to emerge in his car and he drove by without stopping for fans. Others were more generous, pulling up and signing autographs without getting out of their cars.

The day I went I got signatures from Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Michal Neuvirth, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas, Mark Streit, Nick Shultz and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an autograph from star player Jakub Voracek, who narrowly avoided hitting me with his car.

I have already gone to another practice since going the first time and I know people who attend to almost every practice. Every practice is different and different players will meet fans, so there is a lot of room for new experiences. I would definitely recommend everyone try it at least once, despite the hike, because it’s a great experience that many people don’t take advantage of.

Typical signings and photo opportunities with players can cost anywhere from $25 to $75, depending on who the player is and if you want a picture, autograph, or both. Open practices are a great alternative for sports fans with tight student budgets.

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