Flyers Alumni Russia Tour: Feb. 20, 2017
11:30 p.m. (Moscow)
Earlier today, we walked from our hotel, across Red Square and to the rink adjacent to the Gum. The rink has a skating area that measures 3,000 square meters (32,291 square feet) and no player benches. As a result, our final match of our Russia tour was conducted as an old-fashioned shinny game, with all of the players on both sides on the ice at the same time and few rules (no offside, no center ice faceoff after a goal, no scoreboard or game clock, etc.).
It was a throwback to childhood -- well, except for the Red Square part, the fireplace in the dressing room (which looked like a colorfully decorated one-room house) and the Russian carnival music that was playing during our match.
No one was keeping an official score... but we won. Actually, the entire experience of touring Russia was a big win for the Flyers Alumni. Side note: Lindsay Carson kept alive his streak of having scored a goal in every game played during the tour.
The guys had fun. How many players, especially North Americans, can say they got to skate -- much less play some hockey -- on Red Square? That, in and of itself, made it worthwhile to come.
Shjon Podein may have had the most fun of anyone today.
"I really loved this today," Podein said afterwards. "There was no pressure. There was just a relaxed pace. Total pond hockey. And just to be here in Moscow on Red Square --think of how much history has happened right here where we are -- and in this whole atmosphere, it was awesome."
The Flyers Alumni special guest player on Red Square. Alexei Yashin, who played for the SKA Alumni side in Saturday's game in St. Petersburg, donned a Flyers jersey for one day only. It was his little thank you to us for visiting the kids hockey clinic he conducted on the same rink on Sunday. Also skating for the Flyers Alumni as guest players once again were Andrei Nikolishin, Andrei Kovalenko and Sergei Gimayev. Longtime NHL star Bobby Carpenter remained with us, as well, but was unable to play in this game. He came to rinkside and chirped some of the boys.
World-famous jazz saxophonist Igor Butman, who played for the Flyers Alumni side as a guest in St. Petersburg and against us today, had a concert tonight in Moscow. We attended as the closing event of our tour.
Our time in Russia has been unbelievable. We were treated like visiting dignitaries just by virtue of the famous Flyers brand on our chests. At heart, though, we're just regular guys who love to play the hockey. The chance to play in some incredible places and meet many wonderful people will be our biggest takeway.
We'd had a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Russia but, yes, we are ready to come home. See you at the rink!