Alumni Fantasy Camper Profile: Brian George

 

You don't have to live near Philadelphia to participate in the annual Flyers Alumni Fantasy Camp. Attendees come from across North America each year. Case in point: Chicagoland resident Brian George. Brian has attended each of the first four Alumni Fantasy Camps in Atlantic City and will be back this Aug. 16-19 for his fifth.

"I wouldn't miss the Camp for anything. It's really become like a family to me. It's a lot of fun, on and off the ice. We laugh a lot, and we learn about the game, too," George said.
 
A native of South Jersey, George grew up a diehard Flyers fan from the Broad Street Bullies era and beyond. Even after relocating to Chicago in the late 1990s, he has maintained his love for the Flyers.
 
Back in the 1970s, there were not many neighborhood ice rinks located around the Delaware Valley. Thus, it was not until George was a young adult in the mid-1980s that he got his first opportunity to play ice hockey himself.
 
"I learned to play through HNA [Hockey North America], which at the time was called the NNHA.  I remember that we had a clinic at the Class of 1923 Rink at the University of Pennsylvania. Around 1985, I met Gordie Howe at the camp. Once I was bitten by the hockey playing bug, it became a major passion for me, and I've loved to play ever since," George recalls.
 
At the Flyers Alumni Camp, attendees come from a wide array of hockey playing backgrounds. Some have played most of their lives. Others, like Brian, did not play until adulthood but became regular recreational players. Still others are relative novice players.

Thinking back to his first Flyers Alumni Camp, George chuckles. 
 
"Our coaches that first year were Bernie Parent and Joe Watson. Bernie keeps hollering from the bench, 'C'mon! Spear that bastard!'  I couldn't stop laughing. I told Bernie that he was the real bully from those '70s Flyers teams, not Dave Schultz. It was in good fun, of course, and it's gotten better and better every year," George said.
 
George said that, through his participation in the camp, he has forged good friendships with numerous camp attendees, as well as the Alumni instructors. 
 
"One of the years, Moose Dupont was one of my coaches. Last year, I saw him and we struck up a long conversation. I don't think we even talked at all about hockey; just about life and assorted topics. The Alumni guys, to a man, are all very genuine and very approachable. They love to have a good time, too. As a kid who loved the Flyers, they seemed larger than life but they're just regular guys," George said.
 
George said that he's also learned a lot on the ice from the Alumni, both from the technical side of the game and also in terms of his mental approach. Last year, he played on the Flyers Alumni Fantasy Cup championship winning team coached by Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mark Howe.
 
"Howie is a great teacher, and he keeps you on your toes. He taught me a valuable lesson about pacing your shifts, which I've passed along to other players back in Chicago. You don't want to be physically spent at the end of a shift. Skate hard but get off to the bench while you still have something left. That way, you recover faster for the start of your next shift," George said. 
 
It is not lost on George that his own hockey journey has taken him full circle of sorts -- from a camp promote by the late Mr. Hockey and watching Gordie's son, Mark, play for the Flyers to having Mark Howe as one of his Flyers Alumni Fantasy Camp instructors.
 
"I mentioned it to Mark, and we got a laugh about it," George said. 
 
While the first and foremost purpose of the Alumni Camp is to have fun and for proceeds to benefit the Flyers Alumni Association and the charitable and community organizations we support, the annual tournament at the end of camp gets some of the old competitive juices flowing. 
 
"NHL players, retired or current, only know one way to approach hockey. That's to play to win. I love the environment. I believe it was last year that Brad Marsh got upset over a call the referee made on the ice. Afterwards, everyone gets together and they're joking around again over a few beers. That's what hockey is all about," George said.