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High Flyer

by Matt Cosentino
Thanks to a recent contract extension and some key offseason moves, James van Riemsdyk is poised to become the next face of the Flyers franchise.

James van Riemsdyk may only be 22 years old, but the Philadelphia Flyers organization is counting on him to play well beyond his years. That’s because after an early exit in the NHL playoffs last season, the team revamped the roster, trading away star players (and fan favorites) like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. JVR, as he is affectionately called by fans of the Orange and Black, was the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and showed great potential in his first two seasons with the club, including last year when he netted 21 goals in the regular season before adding seven more in the postseason games.

Originally from Middletown, van Riemsdyk now lives in Cherry Hill, and was rewarded this past offseason with a six-year contract extension worth a reported $25.5 million. As a top-line player for the first time in his career, van Riemsdyk is part of the team’s nucleus of young talent that has Flyers fans anxiously awaiting another run at the Stanley Cup. We caught up with the New Jersey native at the Skate Zone in Voorhees to chat about the season and how he’s adjusting to life in the spotlight.

We caught up with the New Jersey native at the Skate Zone in Voorhees to chat about the season and how he’s adjusting to life in the spotlight.

SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: Not many Jersey kids get all the way to the NHL. What does that mean to you?
JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK: It’s pretty cool. Obviously, it’s not a hockey hotbed as far as guys making it to the NHL. To be one of those few guys is exciting and I can be a role model for the younger kids growing up in this area who want to make it to the NHL. It can happen if you put it all together.

SJM: Do you come into contact with the Little Flyers and other youth players in the area?
JVR: Yeah, you see them around the rink. A couple of the guys on the team have young kids who play. I played against a lot of the teams that they play on now when I was growing up. It’s great that I can be in this area and stay local and give back a little bit.

SJM: Is your family still living in New Jersey?
JVR: Yeah, my family is still [in Middletown]. It’s about an hour and a half away, so my dad comes down to most home games. It’s great that he can come to a lot of games, even games in North Jersey or in [Madison Square] Garden. I could be a lot further from home.

SJM: Being from Middletown, but now residing in South Jersey, are there more similarities or differences be­tween the two?
JVR: Similarities. They’re both pretty close to a big city and it reminds me a little bit of my hometown.

SJM: What do you like most about living in Cherry Hill?
JVR: It’s a good location because it’s close to everything. It’s close enough to the city where you can shoot in there, but far enough away where it’s not as busy when you don’t want it to be. There are a lot of great restaurants around; it’s a great area.

SJM: Now that you’ve had a few training camps under your belt, did you feel more settled in heading into the season?
JVR: I feel a little bit more used to the routine and that sort of thing. I know what I need to do to get ready for the season. I think the more experience you have, the more you know how to get ready for the year and to make it a good one. [I’m] definitely more relaxed. The first camp, you’re not sure what to expect and that gives you more nerves. But now I feel great and excited for the year.

SJM: This past offseason, the team went through a lot of changes. How are the new guys fitting in and how do returning players adjust to the new faces?
JVR: It’s been pretty good so far. The new guys got in a little earlier, so I got a chance to know a bunch of them and see what they’re like away from the rink. That helps when you get to know what a guy’s all about … It makes it that much easier to play hard for the guy next to you. We have some time to do some things away from the rink and get to know each other. I think that’s huge for team chemistry.

SJM: Take us back to that day in June with the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Were you shocked?
JVR: Definitely. You see two guys like that get moved, it’s not something you’re expecting. But it does happen, especially when there’s a salary cap and you have to figure out where you’re going to spend the money. They decided to make those moves and now it’s up to us to move on and fill those big shoes.

SJM: Of course, their trades opened up a bigger role for you on the team.
JVR: I was excited. Obviously, I was kind of stuck in a secondary role. We had a lot of depth on our team and a lot of guys were ahead of me because they had played awhile and had made their mark as great players. I was waiting in the wings a little bit. I got a chance to play a little more in the playoffs when we had some injuries and I kind of took that opportunity and ran with it. That’s something I’m really excited for this year, to be one of the go-to guys and really step up my game.

SJM: Before, in a brief interview with us, you said you never leave home without your lucky coin. Can you tell us more about that? Where did you get it and what’s the significance?
JVR: I got it when I went down to visit some of the Navy Seals. It’s something that I still have and carry with me every day. It’s something that always reminds me that other people make significant sacrifices for our country.

SJM: With some of the other players on the team also living in South Jersey, do you guys get together after practice or on off days?
JVR: Yup. A lot of us go out to dinner on nights that we don’t have games. It’s nice having a group of guys around where we can easily shoot over and grab dinner or hang out.

SJM: Is this the most excited you’ve been coming into a season?
JVR: I would say so. Each year you get more and more excited and find new things to get excited for. This year’s going to be a different challenge for me. It’s exciting to get a chance to play a key role. That’s what you dream about, that’s why you lace up the skates, to play in those big situations where you’re relied upon to deliver in the clutch.

SJM: Do you feel signing the extension put added pressure on you?
JVR: Not necessarily. Obviously, it’s nice to have that security, but I always want to be the best I can be, money aside. When you’re younger, you’re not getting paid and you always want to be the best you can be. It’s not going to change much about who I am.

SJM: ­­­The big question on everyone’s mind: Is this a team that can lift the Stanley Cup next summer?
JVR: Any time you make the playoffs, it’s kind of a crapshoot from there. We showed a couple years ago, we barely squeaked in and made it all the way to the Finals. That’s half the battle, making the playoffs, and you never know from there. We’ll see how things go, but our goal is to win the Stanley Cup.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (November, 2011).
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