The hat arrived in the mail from a Flyers scout sometime in late fall.

Jeff Carter wasn't sure which one, but the scout wanted equipment manager Derek Settlemyre to get it signed and then send it back. But there was something about the bright, ill-fitting, extremely ugly hat that the players liked.

"We opened up the box and took one look at it and said, 'We can't sign this thing, we have to keep it,' " Carter explained. "Look at the thing. It's like 50 years old."

Not old as in worn, just old as in style: cloth front with a complete mesh back.

"It ain't new, I'll tell you that,'' Carter said.

So they held onto it, and now after every game, if you get a chance to watch the postgame interviews you'll find the hat sitting on the head of the Flyer who was voted player of the game by the team.

"It's a great hat," Carter said, explaining that the rule is if you get the hat, you have to wear it while you're interviewed. "That's the rule.''

But it is ugly and it never seems to fit right. And on some players, Antero Niittymaki in particular, it really looks bad. Danny Briere had it on in Buffalo, Ryan Parent in Pittsburgh.

Carter walked into the interview room after Monday night's win against New Jersey, wearing it proudly. Afterward, he hung it in his stall where it will stay until tomorrow night when the Flyers host Florida.

The Flyers had an off-day yesterday after back-to-back wins so the hat's home is extended. But it's in a fitting place. Carter scored his 40th goal of the season Monday night.

"It's cool," Carter said of the milestone. "It's obviously nice, and to be able to help the team out and score some goals, it's definitely a good feeling. It's a good feat for myself with help from some good teammates."

One of those teammates is Simon Gagne, who scored his 30th goal for the fourth time in his Flyers career. The fact that both players reached those numbers on the same night illustrates the kind of balanced scoring the Flyers have.

Six players have more than 20 goals this season.

"Those are quite big accomplishments," coach John Stevens said. "To have two guys get them on the same night. The balance in scoring we have up front, I think is terrific." *