Alumni Excited for Russia Tour
From February 13, 2017 until Feb. 21, the Flyers Alumni Team will embark on arguably its most ambitious and far-reaching overseas tour since the creation of the Flyers Alumni Association in 1984. The Alumni will travel to multiple locations in Russia -- Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan -- for a series of on-ice and off-ice events that include pickup and more formalized hockey games, cultural programs, get-togethers with famed Russian hockey figures, dignitaries and business leaders, cultural programs, hockey clinics and more.
"For us, this is an opportunity to spend extended time in one of the world's foremost hockey nations and to explore a beautiful country," Flyers Alumni Association president Brad Marsh said. "I'm one of the guys who will going to Russia for the first time, and I'm excited about it both from the hockey standpoint but also as a chance for basically a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The tour was the brainchild of Flyers Hall of Fame defenseman and longtime Alumni Team driving force Joe Watson.
"Gazprom sent a Russian Legends team over here a few years ago, and taking the Alumni over there is something I've wanted to do for a long time. A lot of work went into this over the last year. There's a lot of logistics to work out, obviously, on both sides, but we're all excited that it's come together. It's a two-way street here. We are excited to go and the Russians are very excited that we are coming all that way," Watson said.
While in Kazan, the capital of the republic of Tartarstan, the Alumni will be skating with a Tartarstan team and meeting with president Rustam Minnikhanov. In St. Petersburg, among other on-ice activities, the Alumni will play an afternoon game against the Gazprom Export/ SKA Legends team and then take in a KHL game as guests of the SKA St. Petersburg team. In Moscow, there will be a pickup game in Red Square as well as a formal outdoor Alumni game on Feb. 20.
"Everyone over there knows about the Flyers, and are excited to show us not just their hockey programs but also share their hospitality and show us their cities and their country," Marsh said. "To me, that's what this tour is all about."
During the tour, the Flyers Alumni will sport special jerseys -- pictured above -- that will be customized further for each stop on the tour. The hosts also will wear commemorative jerseys.
Watson and Marsh will be joined on the tour by Shjon Podein, Lindsay Carson, Al Secord, Terry Carkner, Jeff Chychrun, Chase Watson (Joe's nephew and the son of Flyers Hall of Fame inductee Jim) and AHL Hall of Fame goaltender Freddy Cassivi. While in Russia, the North American contingent may be joined on the ice by Russian-born Flyers Alumni who returned to live in their native country after their NHL careers.
"This could be another one of the really nice parts of this tour, too," Marsh said. "For some of us, these are guys who were teammates or we played against and will be great to see them again. For others, it's a chance to meet them for the first time along with other Russian hockey players and coaches. As for the Flyers Alumni guys from Russia, I think it would be a great thing for them wear the Flyers Alumni uniform. Hockey is a universal language and, like I said, to be part of the Flyers is something special. Once a Flyer, always a Flyer."