STONE HARBOR, N.J. – Joel Farabee, whose hockey skills made him the Flyers' 14th overall pick in last week's NHL draft, wasn't sure his beach volleyball skills would quite stack up.
But a few volleys and a lot of sandy dives later, Farabee found himself the champion of a tournament composed of teams of Flyers prospects and Coast Guard members, capping Wednesday's edition of the annual Trial on the Isle. The left winger, along with teammates Ivan Fedotov, Mikhail Vorobyev and Mark Friedman, barely had a moment to celebrate before being mobbed with requests for fan photos.
"We had a tough start, we lost the first two games, and then we kind of swept from there on," Farabee said. "It was a lot of fun just being in the community and doing stuff like that."
Earlier in the day throngs of young fans in Stone Harbor participated in a skills clinic with Farabee, Jay O'Brien, and Morgan Frost before getting autographs from the entire 33-man camp contingent.
The day began even earlier for the prospects themselves, who were awakened at 3 a.m. for three hours of Navy Seals-led training on the beach. Farabee said the session was "definitely tough" but taught him valuable lessons about breathing techniques and mental toughness.
The entire Trial on the Isle event, the brainchild of Flyers athletic trainer Jim McCrossin and a summer staple at the shore, this year benefited the Cape May County Coast Guard Community Foundation and the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home. McCrossin said the charitable aspects of the day emphasize to prospects the other responsibilities of being a professional athlete.
"Now is not the time to bag skate," said McCrossin. "Now is the time to focus on what we expect from them as a Philadelphia Flyer on the ice [and] off the ice. There's an expectation that we set for … how we expect you to act. It's a culture that you're coming into."
The beach trip once split the Flyers' development camp in half, but now it precedes five days of workouts at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
The beach volleyball was intended as a fun diversion before the real work begins Thursday, but the prospects' competitive personalities were immediately evident.
"Those guys are big — like, they're so tall," said Dan Tomaselli, a member of one Coast Guard team and a lifelong Flyers fan. "They weren't even sweating, and I'm pouring sweat right now. … We did horrible, but it was a lot of fun."
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For Farabee, after donating his volleyball pinnie to an awestruck fan and washing off presumably numerous layers of sand, the focus now shifts to his chance to make a strong impression on the Flyers' coaching staff this summer. As he's bound for Boston University in the fall, he said he "probably won't" be back for full training camp in September.
"My expectations aren't really too high (for this week)," he said. "I'm going to just take what they give me, learn some new things, really just meet the staff and get on the ice with them."