The Philadelphia Flyers and first-year General Manager Ron Hextall was the first team to contact Andrew Gordon when free agency opened up this summer. The decision came quickly and Gordon, an AHL journeyman, signed a one year, two-way contract with Philadelphia in hopes of another shot at the NHL.
“They were sort of the first team that came knocking,” Gordon said of signing with the Flyers. “That’s a sign of a team that’s most interested in you. It was a situation where the team hasn’t had a whole ton of success in the minors the past few years and myself being mostly a minor league player I saw an opportunity to play a few games in the NHL and be recalled would be pretty good here.”
“I signed here because they (Philadelphia) were most interested and the opportunity for me to play in the NHL seemed best.”
The 28-year-old AHL vet played in three preseason games for the Flyers, including some time on Philadelphia’s top line. He filled in for then injured center Claude Giroux and played alongside Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek.
“It was awesome,” Gordon explained of his time on Philadelphia’s top forward line during the preseason. “To play with a couple of really high skilled players it sort of calms you down a little bit. At that level all of the years past I sort of went on the third or fourth line and had to try score three goals every night to try and impress the staff enough to stick around.”
“It was fun to go out there and play for a more calm, relaxed team. Those guys are going to make plays around (me), it was a lot of fun to play with some real high talent. It makes you feel able to make plays out there. I can sort of play an offensive game, not worrying about playing a third or fourth line role at the same time. I was able to go out there and play a more relaxed and simple game than I have in the past.”
The training camp in Philadelphia was diverse from what he’s used to, a change from past years with Washington and Winnipeg. Second-year Flyers head coach Craig Berube ran a fast paced camp, giving more time on the ice rather than in meetings.
“It was high tempo,” said Gordon of the Flyers coaching staff during training camp. “Some camps I’ve been at there’s a lot more time sitting at the board, going over systems and teaching and strategically going over systematic approaches to the game. It was a lot for fun to me when you’re out there playing the game and playing hard and competing as opposed to sort of thinking all time ‘am I in the right position?’. I really enjoyed it, great practices, great pace. The team was full of guys who always worked hard.”
Gordon started the season with the Phantoms at the AHL level and will likely stay there for the majority of the season. He’s an experienced scorer and has averaged .76 points per game in 326 career AHL contests. Lehigh Valley is Gordon’s sixth AHL team after spending the 2013-14 campaign with the St. John’s IceCaps.
He’ll play at the PPL Center in Allentown, a new arena in its first season. The Phantoms moved to Allentown as the Flyers moved their AHL club to a closer location to their home at the Wells Fargo Center. Gordon sad it’s the best AHL arena in the game.
“The fans who have come out have done a great job for us,” said Gordon. “The building is incredible. It’s far and away the best minor league building there is. I’ve played in the West, in the East and this place is untouched in my opinion. We’re so fortunate to have the facility we do, the fans seem to have a great sense of pride in the team already. You see a lot of people driving around town with Phantoms license plates, t-shirts, hats and flying the colors all over the place. It seems like the town has caught on and has really welcomed the team.”
The Phantoms have a plethora of young talent on their roster that could lead to a bright future including Scott Laughton, Nick Cousins, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Taylor Leier and goalie Anthony Stolarz.
“When I talk about the team there’s a ton of young guys with potential who if they can take that step forward from past seasons we could have a very good team, a very skilled team,” said Gordon. “At the same time we have a little bit of a losing record the past couple years. You have to sort of teach yourself how to win and be consistent and play the right way every night.”
While he helps out with Lehigh Valley, Gordon’s goal remains to return to the NHL. It will be a tough climb just as it is for every other player in the AHL trying to reach the highest level of professional hockey.
“It’s tough when you play as hard as you can, work as hard as you can and the other guys go up and you think I’m pretty deserving too,” he said. “It seems to me like when I was young teams kept calling up older guys and know I’m an older guy they keep calling up young guys.”
“Not many guys actually want to be here (in the AHL). You’re always thinking of the next level, trying to reach the next step. At times it can be frustrating, but that’s what being a professional is all about – putting your head down and keep working hard and believing your chance will come – and if not you’ve worked as hard as you can, you’ve done the rights things day in and day out. You can always be proud of effort, it can be tough at times being in the minors, but at the same time I’m still in the 1% of the population on planet Earth who enjoys going to their job every day.”