Episode 2 of the “Beyond the Boards” docuseries follows defenseman Tony DeAngelo from the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees to the familiar confines of the Hollydell Rink in his native Sewell, NJ, and back again. The presentation of the episode shows DeAngelo as his friends within the sport and the kids he’s coached at Hollydell for the last four summers have gotten to know him.
Growing up in South Jersey, DeAngelo gravitated immediately to the Philadelphia Flyers. He loved ice hockey as a sport and loved to play the game, but he had no “second-favorite” NHL team or rooted for non-Flyers players even if he couldn’t help but respect the skills of the sport’s stars.
“I’m sure people have heard me say this before. But [I remember] being in my room, yelling at the TV. I’d stay up late, try to sneak up late past my bedtime on a school night if, you know, they were out playing in Calgary or Vancouver at 10 o’clock at night. I’d try to sneak the TV on, watch it on mute, and try to watch the game. My parents would have to make me shut the TV off. I only liked the Flyers. I hated everybody else,” DeAngelo said.
“I used to go to school — every day — in Flyer t-shirts, sweatpants and hats. It was always Flyers for me….My definition of what a Flyer is like the old days: a Bobby Clarke or a Rick Tocchet or a Rod Brind’Amour. Those kinds of guys that play the game hard. They play the game with passion. They can do everything kind of. They can score. They can fight. Play power play, penalty kill. That’s what a Flyer represents.”
The side of Tony Angelo that loves coaching young players in the off season and brings a down-to-earth and patient approach to giving back to the sport seems quite different from the ultra-intense, push-the-envelope competitive side.
As a youngster, DeAngelo got his hockey start at Hollydell Rink (which has been spruced up considerably from how it was in around the year 2000 when he first went there). He was a member of the Hollydell Hurricanes, then the Little Flyers and then the Mercer Chiefs. In 2008, DeAngelo played for the Flyers’ team at the legendary Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament.
Subsequently, DeAngelo moved on to live and play in other locales. He played in the USHL and the Ontario Hockey League; In 2014, with the NHL Entry Draft being held in Philadelphia, DeAngelo was selected 19th overall in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The late Ray Emery famously sported a tattoo that said, “Anger is a gift.” For Tony DeAngelo, being passionately emotion-driven is something that has sometimes made him his own worst enemy. He’s walked a thin line, and has not always stayed on the beam in terms of channeling his emotions in the right way.
On the positive side, DeAngelo’s intensity and competitiveness has fueled him to push himself to get the most out of his considerable skills on the ice. In each of his last two full NHL seasons, he’s notched double-digit goals and surpassed 50 points.
On the down side, anger management has been a struggle at times for DeAngelo dating back to his junior days. He did and said some things in moments of anger that he soon regretted and for which he faced some much-publicized disciplinary consequences. The damage was done but DeAngelo took behind-the-scenes initiative to mend fences on a personal basis.
From a hockey competition standpoint, DeAngelo has never needed to be pushed to get mentally fired up to play any opponent.
It’s not surprising, however, that when DeAngelo was playing for other teams in the NHL — after being drafted by Tampa, he had stops in the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes organizations — he was especially pumped to compete against the team he rooted so vehemently for in childhood. He even dropped the gloves once with former Flyer Wayne Simmonds; a player whom many NHLers are reluctant to tangle because packs a wallop and is tenacious and sinewy despite his deceptively skinny-looking physique.
When playing against the Flyers for the archrival Rangers in particular, DeAngelo said in Beyond the Boards that he frequently clashed with two of the Flyers’ most intense on-ice players in Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton. This was especially true with Konecny. DeAngelo and Konecny would chirp each other frequently, and give each an extra pop behind the play here and a gratuitous cross-check or slash there.
According to DeAngelo, the fact that he and Konecny have a mutual close friend in Kevin Hayes — DeAngelo and Hayes were teammates in New York before Hayes became a Flyers teammate with Konency — turned the heat down on their on-ice rivalry even before DeAngelo came to Philadelphia.
Now that DeAngelo is a Flyer, he’s started to forge a friendship of his own with Konecny and Laughton. All three were among the earliest arrivals at the Flyers Training Center for on-ice and off-ice workouts more than a month ahead of the start of training camp.
On July 8, 2022, the day DeAngelo became a Flyer, old friend Hayes wrote of the player, “Tony is one of the most loyal teammates I’ve ever played with. He will have every guy in that locker room’s back. He is a passionate person who played with an edge while being one of the most skilled D men in the league. The fans here are absolutely going to love him. Ever since I met him, we always joked about him playing in Philly. Everyone should be excited for opening night.”
DeAngelo was slated to be a restricted free agent this summer but the Hurricanes gave the player early permission to speak to other teams, and then to work out a trade. The Flyers acquired DeAngelo and a 2022 seventh-round pick (Alexis Gendron) in exchange for a 2022 fourth-round pick (Simon Forsmark), a 2023 third-round pick, and a 2024 second round pick. The defenseman was then signed by the Flyers to a two-year contract at a $5 million average annual value.
Had the Flyers signed DeAngelo to an offer sheet for the same money, Carolina would have received a first-round and a third-round pick from Philadelphia as compensation had the Hurricanes declined to match.
“It’s a dream come true. I’m going to take it all in. It really doesn’t even feel real yet. Being at the practice rink and stuff. Wearing the jersey feels cool. But until we get out there for the first night with the home fans, it’s not going to feel real.,” DeAngelo said.
“I got to sign here and be here. I’m hoping to never leave again. I’m hoping when I retire is the next time I’m done playing for the Flyers.”
How well will DeAngelo mesh with prospective defense partner Ivan Provorov? Time will tell.
It should be noted that one of Provorov’s two best NHL seasons — the 2017-18 campaign — came during a season when he was paired for most of the season with Shayne Gostisbehere. Subsequent incarnations of the pairing did not gel as well, although there were periodic flashes of their original chemistry.
DeAngelo and “Ghost” are NOT clones of one another in their respective games — it is inaccurate that “DeAngelo is essentially a right-handed Ghost” as one pundit stated — but there are some similarities to their offensive skill sets and the fact that neither are shutdown defenders.
However, until Provorov and DeAngelo actually get out on the ice and start playing alongside one another, the Provorov-Gostisbehere pairing comparison may have to suffice as a rough estimate of what the Flyers envision in the ongoing absence of Ryan Ellis.
DeAngelo said that he’s very much looking forward to playing for new head John Tortorella. The intensity and competitiveness displayed by Tortorella is legendary in its own right. He’s quite demanding of all of his players and believes that a certain degree of tension and conflict is beneficial both to pushing the player to attain higher levels of achievement and also to ultimately forging a strong personal relationship.
Tortorella has said on a couple of occasions over the summer that DeAngelo is one of the Flyers with whom he most looks forward to working. The coach fully expects that there will be periodic tensions and raised voices between them but also believes it will be constructive in the bigger picture.
DeAngelo considers himself to be rather similar to Tortorella in some regards. He is also defiant of the Flyers’ critics.
“Torts represents [being] a Flyer perfectly as a coach. You can’t beat a guy that wants to win. Every coach wants to win but he shows it in a little bit different of a way. I show it in a different way, too. Because we want to win. We’re not just doing it for ourselves. We want to be the best at what we’re doing, and he wants his team to be the best,” DeAngelo said.
“For a team in our position and what we’re looking to prove, I think that’s the way everybody needs to be. Everybody needs to have that kind of swagger and personality. We’re not going to worry about what anybody else says about our team or where we’re headed. We’re just going to do it on our own.”
DeAngelo stated that he has no interest in dwelling on what happened in 2020-21 or 2021-22 before his arrival. “I’d throw it out the window,” he said.
Likewise, the player detests the notion that the Flyers should be more focused on 2023 NHL Draft Lottery odds than on the immediate season to come.
“There’s only one way to think about the beginning of the season. We’re getting ready to start. It’s a whole new season. I couldn’t give a crap what happened here last season. It means nothing to me. We’re here now…..We’re looking to do as best as we can. If it ain’t the playoffs, to me it’s a failed season. That’s the way I think we all need to look at it,” he said in Episode 2.
“You just go out and play the game hard…. You represent the Flyers’ logo in a way the city can be proud of. That’s what a Flyer represents to me. Just a blue collar player. I’m going to do a good job of that this year. I think the Flyers will appreciate the way we’re going to start trending. Get back to that style of play.”
DeAngelo stressed that he didn’t return to his home area to relieve his childhood nostalgia for the Flyers. He also has no desire to see his team meekly accept what others have said about the club’s talent level and ability to compete in one of the NHL’s toughest divisions.
“See what this team is going to be like. To me, the personal stuff goes to the side. We’re going to have a hard-working team. There’s only one goal. Are we going to win the Stanley Cup? I don’t know. But we aren’t going to get pushed around. that’s for sure,” he vowed.
Philadelphiaflyers.com is the official Web site of the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia Flyers and philadelphiaflyers.com are trademarks of Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2020 Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.