Jakub Voracek finds a way to Philly for return, shares funny memory of Flyers fans

·4 min read

Voracek finds a way to Philly for return, shares funny memory of Flyers fans originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jakub Voracek said he was headed to bed Wednesday night thinking he wasn't coming back to Philadelphia.

Then his phone rang around 11:30 p.m. ET.

He was in Philly by 8:30 a.m. ET the next morning.

"Excited for the nap now," Voracek said Thursday after morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

The former Flyer exited COVID protocol and hustled to the place he called home for 10 years. After his return initially appeared on hold, Voracek is now set to play in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to Columbus in the offseason. The Flyers host the Blue Jackets on Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Voracek, now 32, will see the fan base he at times clashed with but organically related to given their likeness.

He was always forthright and real. The city was the same way with him.

"Sometimes those relationships don't hurt, when you have that relationship with someone," Voracek said. "Always open, always kind of hard-nosed. I had it like that, I stood by myself. I had my opinion, they had their opinion and that's the way it is. I wouldn't go any further than that, I'm sure there are no personal feelings about that. That's just the way it was."

Voracek's first game with the Flyers came when he was 22 years old. The playmaking winger finished his time in Philly with the franchise's fifth-most assists (427) and 10th-most points (604).

He had built a reputation of hardly ever missing a game and consistently creating offense. What left a scar on his time here was the Flyers' inability to go on a postseason run. The team won two playoff series during his tenure.

But Voracek was productive and durable on the ice. He was honest and entertaining off of it.

All qualities a city like this one can appreciate.

"I'm always going to remember Philly," Voracek said. "It's going to hold a special place in my heart.

"It's been such a fun and good ride. When you spend a decade with your friends in one of the best sports towns in the world, it's been good."

More: Flyers honor Voracek with special video tribute in his return

Voracek shared a laugh about a home game back on Feb. 28, 2017, when the Flyers beat the Avalanche, 4-0. Wayne Simmonds scored a pair of first-period goals. He nearly netted a hat trick in the opening stanza.

Yet the third goal went to Voracek. And just about nobody knew.

Boos for a goal. Voracek loved it.

"Everybody thought — including me — that Simmer got a hat trick, so all the hats started pouring down on the ice," Voracek said. "Simmer told me in the huddle that he didn't score that. I was like, 'Oh my God, let's see what's going to happen.' I think everybody was booing, which was pretty funny. We were up like 4-0 in the first period. We just had a lot fun about that."

Voracek was dealt during the summer for Cam Atkinson, who spent 10 years in Columbus. Voracek leads the Blue Jackets (17-18-1) in assists with 24, while Atkinson leads the Flyers (13-18-8) in goals with 15.

It sets up for two reunions Thursday night.

"Cam is having a good season for Philly," Voracek said. "I would say I've been pretty strong in Columbus, as well. When you look at it this way, it's been good for both teams. Obviously the standings isn't as good as we expected and I think Philly's the same way."

Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo got a chance to see Voracek in the morning. He was one of Voracek's assistant coaches over the past two seasons.

"It'll be weird and obviously not fun," Yeo said of facing Voracek. "Having a chance to work with Jake and coach him, you know how dangerous he can be every time he's on the ice. I knew that before I came here. I would have been OK if he would have wanted to take one more game off.

"But I know there's going to be a lot of emotion for both him and for Cam. Both guys were very important players to their organizations, both gave a lot to their organizations. You come back, now you're playing against your friends, your teammates. Those are emotional games.

"I know that his team is going to want to play hard for him and I know our team is going to want to play hard for Cam."

Not by habit, Voracek still turned right into the Flyers' locker room Thursday morning before heading down the hallway to the visiting dressing room on the left.

"To say hi to the boys," Voracek said. "I think it's the least I can do. I didn't get kicked out, so that was good."

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