Flyers Alumni Russia Tour: Feb. 19, 2017

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9:15 PM (Moscow)
 
After a short flight on Aeroflot from St. Petersburg to Moscow and setting our stuff down at the classic European luxury Hotel National, we set out on Red Square to meet up again with Alexei Yashin. Alexei was running a kids hockey clinic (or "master class" as its called here)  on the outdoor rink at Red Square. We came to rinkside to greet Alexei and meet some of the kids.
 
One of the young participants was a boy wearing a Flyers hat. While all the kids were excited to see us come across the world for a visit, our young Flyers fan was the one with the widest grin on his face. 
 
As with the clinics we helped conduct in Kazan, the pure non-jaded love of hockey on the kids' faces in Red Square will be one of our most satisfying memories of the trip. Kudos to Alexei for running the session.
 
After visiting Alexei and the kids, we had our first real opportunity to wander around Red Square. As if the sights of spectacular spires, the majesty of the Kremlin building, and the precision and solemnity of the changing-of-the-guard procession were not awe-inspiring enough, there was also a Sunday festival ongoing at Red Square. The smells of foods -- especially skewers of chicken on large grills and the sounds of Russian music filled the air. There were also kid-friendly activities such as a carousel, puppet shows. There was an open-air market with baked goods, souvenirs and more.
 
For dinner tonight, a couple of us went to place called Vatrushka for some traditional Russian foods, such as borscht, beef stroganoff, typical desserts, vodka and mulled wines, and more. We have certainly eaten very well in Russia.
 
By night, Red Square comes alive even more with a dazzling display of lights. It is something that neither words nor even pictures can do justice. Along Red Square, there are also malls with dozens upon dozens of very high-end stores located throughout.
 
Sadly, as a stark constrast to the opulence, there were also several elderly women outside on the Square among those who begged for coins while standing in the cold. Such is the way of any big city on the world to some extent; not every reality is pleasant. A big focus of the Flyers Alumni Association's activities at home is to support charitable and community-based organization -- both via donation and by volunteering our tine -- to help the less fortunate in the Delaware Valley, such as through our annual holiday food deliveries and cooperation with Cityteam.  It is our goal to think globally, though. Compassion knows no language or cultural barrier.
 
First and foremost, though, we try to share of our love of hockey. Whether we're on the RiverRink on Penn's Landing or halfway across the wolrd in Red Square, we learn all over again that hockey is a universal language. The happiness it brings to people and the friendships it helps to create become more and more important as we get older. We still compete and still play to win, but the joy of the game itself and the ability we have to use it to raise money for the charities, civic and educational resources we support is what matters long after the final save is made or goal is scored.
 
Tomorrow at 1 p.m. Moscow time, we will be back on Red Square for the tour-culminating game on the outdoor rink. We'll need to have our skating legs going for sure because that rink is beyond massive.We'll also be playing against a stacked lineup, from what we've heard. We'll have reinforcements, too.
 
Til then, as the legendary Gene Hart would have said, "Good night, good hockey!"