Many members of the Flyers grew up around Toronto and had a close allegiance to the Blue Jays and their star pitcher, Roy Halladay.
On Wednesday, they were painfully trying to come to grips with Halladay’s tragic death from a plane crash Tuesday in Florida. Halladay was the only person in the plane.
“I remember going to the Jays games with my dad and watching him and guys like [first baseman] Carlos Delgado,” center Scott Laughton said after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees.
Laughton said Halladay was his favorite player.
“He was the best pitcher when I was growing up. I had his jersey, and he was just unbelievable,” said Laughton, who played some baseball in his youth. “I read a couple articles on how he finished his workouts at 5:30 in the morning.”
After learning about Halladay’s death, Laughton talked with his dad Tuesday night.
“It’s just tough. It chokes you up seeing that,” he said.
Right winger Wayne Simmonds echoed the sentiments.
“Being a huge Blue Jays fan, I got to see him pitch a lot of good games,” Simmonds said. “When he got to Philly, he was unbelievable for the Phillies, too. It’s a tragic shame, and thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Simmonds said Halladay was a no-frills performer.
“I remember growing up and watching him play. You never heard too many [sound] clips from him,” Simmonds said. “‘He’d just go out and pitch a nine-inning shutout or something like that. It was nice getting a chance to see him pitch.”
Piloting a plane was one of Halladay’s joys.
“Some guys have different interests after you’re done [playing],” Simmonds said. “You don’t get the time to do a lot when you’re in a sport … and I heard his dad was a pilot, so obviously he got that from his dad, and he enjoyed it.”
Simmonds paused and added, “It sucks that we’re standing here today talking about the loss of a 40-year-old man who had so much more to give.”
Flyers captain Claude Giroux said Halladay was a “good ambassador for the sport.”
“I was a pretty big Blue Jays fan, and then when I came here, he played for the Phillies,” Giroux said, adding that he talked with Halladay a few times but didn’t know him that well.
“I never heard anyone say anything bad about him. When it was game day, he was a really focused guy and did a lot of good things for baseball.”
Based on Wednesday’s practice, it appears Michal Neuvirth will start in goal against visiting Chicago on Thursday. … First-round pick Nolan Patrick, sidelined with a head injury, did not practice Wednesday. He is expected to miss his seventh straight game Thursday.