Flyers Introduce ‘New Era’: 5 Takeaways from the Press Conference
The Flyers ‘New Era of Orange’ was formally presented to the public on Friday morning. The team held a press conference from the floor of Wells Fargo Center with all five key figures in their leadership plan present and ready to explain just what the path forward would be.
For Flyers fans, the most that is typically seen and heard from this group is the nightly postgame pressers by head coach John Tortorella. While Danny Briere has spoken to the media a handful of times since taking over two months ago, this was his formal introduction as the new general manager. This was Keith Jones introduction as President of Hockey Operations. It was a rare opportunity for the business side to also be present for the fans, with Valerie Camillo being among the panel and the first time hearing from new CEO and Chairman of Comcast and governor of the Flyers, Dan Hilferty.
So what did we learn from this new leadership group on Friday morning, particularly the triumvirate that will be the brains behind the direction the hockey team goes moving forward? Here are 10 takeaways.
1. Collaboration is the Key Word
The main theme of the entire press conference was established early by Hilferty.
“You see our leadership vision centers around one word – collaboration,” Hilferty said. “There will be total alignment – not perfect – but there will be total alignment between hockey operations and business operations.
“Throughout my career, I've been fortunate, and I have a bit of a talent – the ability to assemble collaborative teams that achieve great things together. My philosophy is simple. We are stronger when we are together. Magic happens. Takes time, but magic happens when talented leaders unify toward a collective goal. For us, it's about winning, or developing a winning culture for our beloved Flyers.”
When you think of the Flyers leadership going forward, the new era is going to be completely encapsulated by this group of five. They are all connected moving forward.
There will be questions about if this can succeed. If it works, they will all be celebrated. If it doesn’t, they will all go down together in this effort.
2. Teamwork on the Hockey Side
Another key word was teamwork, and you saw both Danny Briere and Keith Jones discuss it. As the two leaders on the hockey side, they will be in unison on the strategy behind hockey moves.
It was clearly established how much this is Briere’s job to put together the best team possible and “rebuild the Flyers into a contender.” There was no other GM candidate considered. All parties involved knew Briere was the man for the job from the start. But how does Jones factor into this relationship?
Jones brings a wealth of knowledge from broadcasting. There will be an understanding of what today’s game is and where it’s going. As President of Hockey Operations, Jones will be a “big picture” leader. He will set the organizational plan with all parts of leadership. And again, collaboration will be a key part, with Jones working closely with both ends of the spectrum, Briere on the hockey side and Valerie Camillo on the business side.
In just two months of being the interim GM, Briere noted a desire to do right by the fans. “You have my full attention,” Briere said to the fans, adding that he has become hungrier to turn things around.
Jones, exiting the broadcast booth for this role, said this was the only team he would do this for or even interview with. He talked about the feeling of being traded to Philadelphia from Colorado and knowing it was a similar feeling around the league for players. “We are going to back to that,” Jones said. “It’s got away from us.”
3. Partnering with the Business Side
The structure on the hockey side is not all that unusual, but having someone on the hockey side also have so much involvement with business is a bit more of a unique structure. Commonly, these two things are often held separate. How often do you really get to hear from ownership?
Flyers fans are probably a little more used to it than others. Ed Snider was an ever-present figure during his life, so he was essentially always available. In the better part of the last decade, the Flyers have been faceless on this side of the organization. Hilferty certainly appears to be changing that.
“I also think that these three get along so well, that they'll be able to work collaboratively in speaking to the public on a regular basis,” Hilferty said. “Where I thought you were going with the question was, how do I view it? And I mean, when I think of a President of a hockey club – I'm not even getting into the ownership aspect – I think of Ed Snider, and people said to me, “are you going to be like Ed Snider?”, and my response is, “I can't be Ed Snider, I can only be myself.” A thing that is apparent to people I work with is I like being out there. So, I'm going to be walking around the arena. I'm going to go to events.”
Bridging the gap between the two sides will be relationship that Jones has with Camillo. The two will discuss things regularly in terms of direction for promoting the Flyers and ways to connect with the fans.
“I think it's about partnership, and it's already begun. I actually was just talking to Keith yesterday, we were having some conversations on the business side with the NHL about future marquee games that the Flyers might participate in, be that outdoors or international, and he was the first call that I made to say, “how do you feel about this? Are you excited about it?” Camillo said, “because we want to be in lockstep on everything. Our marketing campaigns are another example of that. Our marketing personality should reflect the personality of the team and how these guys feel about the vision going forward. Just in each and every thing that comes up on the business side that's relevant to what they're working on, it's going to be my first call, and Keith has told me the same on his side.”
4. The Ex-Flyer ‘Disease’
The common thought when the search was over and the official announcement was nearing was focusing in on Jones and Briere as ex-Flyers. And yes, there is a lot of same old, same old in these hirings.
They are connected to the Flyers. They are familiar to Flyers fans. And the Flyers have a knack for hiring a lot of their own. That’s just the nature of the last 50 years of this franchise’s history.
Hilferty addressed this right away.
“I know some people are thinking “here they go again, hiring two former Flyer players isn't a fresh start,” Hilferty said. “Let me share with you that during the process, our goal was to hire the two best candidates. It just happens that they're former Flyers.”
But leave it to John Tortorella to cut through that question with a razor sharp knife, unfiltered and off the cuff as only he can be.
“I want to make a point. I don't want to speak out of turn, but I don't get sometimes in this process when people start talking about Flyers, alumni, Jonesy, an ex-Flyer, Danny, an ex-Flyer, what has happened?” Tortorella said. “Why do people think that they're diseased? If you’re an ex-Flyer and you come from the organization that you shouldn't be in this organization, that we need to look outside? I'm not sure who said it here, but it's the person you're looking at.
“I'm proud that they are Flyers. I'm proud of these guys over here, and other alumni that care about this organization. That's what thrills me the most. I think we have strong personalities and I think they care, and I don't get some of the thinking out in this city. ‘Oh, it's an ex-Flyer again, they're doing it the same way.’ God damn. It is so important to have that belief. I'm thrilled. I can't wait to get to work and already starting to do it.
Teams hire ex-players all the time. This is nothing new. It’s not innovative. It’s not shocking. And it’s not the problem the Flyers have. They have made external hires in the last decade too – notable Chuck Fletcher – and lacked success as well. There’s not an exact science or exact formula that works for everyone.
The stigma on the ex-Flyer approach is not that it’s something that never works for any team. It’s the approach of living in the past, not based on the people, but on the players. There has been an emphasis on creating a team that embodies the Flyers of old as the game has evolved out of that stage. It’s lacking adjustments to the salary cap era and consistently backing yourself into a corner where pivoting and making changes becomes a challenge.
The Flyers need to know that they need to approach the game with speed and skill. That’s today NHL. Sure, you need to have some grit, some toughness, some tenacity, but you need to be fast. If Tortorella can coach a team like that and Briere and Jones can build it, they can be the right people for the job. But if the approach remains too much in the past, the players are not of that ilk and makeup, then they will just continue spinning their wheels.
Fans have every reason to doubt that this group is capable of that as much as they should be optimistic that it can happen. Every outcome is on the table.
5. The Flyers are Not for Sale
Another elephant in the room was addressed early by Hilferty. During the process of hiring a President and GM, the team did receive inquiries about if a sale was possible. Hilferty put that to bed right away.
“One thing we heard from a number of candidates who asked the question, are the Flyers for sale? Let me emphatically say – no,” Hilferty said. “Comcast Spectacor intends to have a long and successful run as owner of the Flyers. Today, we start a new chapter, but before we get to that, I have a message for our fans. You, fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, are the heartbeat of this team. Everything we do has to be for you.”
Hilferty was joined by Jones and Briere in expressing the need to be patient in this process, that it will take time. And while there will be skeptics on if Comcast can achieve the goal of returning the Flyers to relevance, there is a lot at stake for all sides. And finally, all sides seem to be on the same page.
This is a rebuild. It will not happen overnight. It needs to be done right. And they are hearing the fans and their frustrations, not only about the play on the ice, but about why it has taken so long to get here, to realize that the only goal is winning.
They are here now, though, and that’s where hopefully this new chapter begins.
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