Flyers Coach Keeping Busy During Lockout

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 8:01 pm
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock got over the fallout from the NHL lockout weeks ago. What he couldn't shake was the uneasy feeling of how he was spending his time.

``I felt myself mentally going down the wrong path,'' he said Thursday. ``You're waiting for the phone to ring, reading all the Internet stories and getting frustrated like everyone else. It wasn't helping.''

So Hitchcock decided to get back to doing what he does best _ coaching.

Hitchcock has spent the week in Texas helping the Corpus Christi Rayz and the New Mexico Scorpions of the Central Hockey League. Hitchcock arrived in Texas on Tuesday, plans to watch three preseason games and return to Philadelphia on Sunday.

``They've been gracious enough to kind of allow me to run some of the practice drills,'' Hitchcock said in a phone interview from a bus parked outside an arena in Corpus Christi. ``We've been getting some concepts down, some team play stuff. I'm having a lot of fun with the guys.''

Hitchcock certainly doesn't have to rush back to coach the Flyers. The NHL and the players association haven't met or spoken since a negotiating session in Toronto on Sept. 9 _ one week before the lockout was imposed. No talks are scheduled.

``I really want to stay as busy as I can,'' said Hitchcock, who would have been starting his third season in Philadelphia. ``Hopefully the time will fly by quickly. I've gotten over the frustration of not being able to play.''

Hitchcock is friends with Doug Frank, who owns both CHL teams, and New Mexico coach Bill McDonald. McDonald was the coach at Kalamazoo when it was it a Dallas affiliate and Hitchcock coached the Stars. Both teams practice at the same arena.

Frank called Hitchcock and asked him to help out.

``Obviously, I did not have a lot scheduled,'' Hitchcock said with a chuckle.

He'll help out some junior teams, Princeton's hockey team and stop by practices for the club teams at Temple, Penn and Villanova. There's also a hockey school starting at the end of the month at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J.

The Flyers have kept him involved with marketing and community relations, and Hitchcock said he is pursuing opportunities outside the Philadelphia area.

``It's just great to be working in a coaching atmosphere,'' he said.

Some of the Flyers have kept busy with morning workouts in Medford, N.J., and Hitchcock speaks with team captain Keith Primeau every week. Other than that, Hitchcock waits like everyone else for news.

The lockout comes at a tough time for the Flyers, who went 40-21-15 last season and won the Atlantic Division before their playoff run ended with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

It was the 29th straight season without a championship for the Flyers, but expectations were high this season.

``You miss it a lot,'' Hitchcock said. ``We built something really special last year and wanted to keep it going.''