Owen Tippett hasn’t had time for Netflix this off-season. Not with what’s at stake. “I haven’t really been able to start any shows because I’ve just been so busy being back in the gym,” said Tippett with a laugh. “I’m sure there are some new ones out there that I’ll have to check out when I can.”
Though the calendar had just flipped to June, the 23-year-old winger was already in the thick of his off-season training regimen, one created by BioSteel founder and fitness guru Matt Nichol and undertaken alongside several current and future NHLers, as he prepares for the challenges that lie ahead.
It’s unlikely next season will be any more chaotic than the one he just endured. Tippett’s 2021-22 campaign challenged his mental fortitude, shuttling him up and down between two different leagues on three different teams spread across two separate organizations.
In a sport where preparation hinges so heavily on routine, it can sometimes seem impossible to find your footing. Tippett certainly struggled to do so. He had to fight for a spot among arguably the NHL’s most crowded forward corps, and the Florida Panthers’ plethora of offensive talent pushed Tippett further and further down the depth chart as the season wore on. He was in and out of the lineup for large chunks of the schedule before eventually landing in the AHL shortly after the calendar turned to 2022.
For a top-10 draft pick who had thrived at every level he’d reached to that point, it was a tough pill to swallow. And Tippett is the first to admit it. “It can be tough mentally, going up and down, and in and out of the lineup,” he said. “But the biggest thing is that you just have to stay ready. Ready for when your time comes. Obviously, it can be tough mentally, and you lose confidence along the way. And I think I struggled with that a little bit.”
As his role in the only NHL organization he’d ever known hung in the balance, Tippett searched for ways to center himself amidst the chaos, ultimately turning to a one-word mantra: simplify. It applied to everything, both on and off the ice. “If you’re trying to do too much, it’s not going to help,” Tippett said. “For me, just simplifying everything and making sure I was doing what I needed to do to make sure I was playing a good game and then worry about building off of that once I was comfortable with where my game was at.
“That was my biggest thing. Keeping everything simple when things are starting to slide a little bit.”
That approach paid off. Tippett made the most of his time in the AHL, racking up an impressive 18 points in 12 games for the Charlotte Checkers. Things were finally beginning to click.
Then came the trade deadline. And everything changed once again.
Tippett knew his time in the Panthers organization was coming to an end before it officially happened. After being held out of a number of the Checkers’ games in mid-March, the Panthers finally dealt Tippett to Philadelphia two days before the deadline, including him as the centerpiece of the package that netted them Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
In a 20-hour span, Tippett went from driving to the Checkers’ home rink to watch them play at 6 p.m., to hopping on a 9 p.m. flight to Philadelphia, to making his Flyers debut at home at 2 p.m. the next day. He barely had time to introduce himself to his linemates before he found himself in front of a packed house that knew he was just dealt for a franchise icon.
Tippett, ever the optimist, didn’t mind the self-described whirlwind. His instant indoctrination as a Flyer forced all distractions to the periphery, preventing him from over-thinking or over-processing the way his tenure with the Panthers had reached its end. “That’s just how life is sometimes,” he said. “You’ve just got to live on your toes and be ready for anything that comes at you.”
The stability that Tippett searched for this season appears to be far more attainable in 2022-23. With the Flyers, Tippett is now a priority – one whose individual development is of extreme importance to the future of an organization in the midst of a quasi-rebuild. Tippett is no longer the ancillary piece he was in Florida. He will get a regular opportunity as a top-six forward to show off his elite-level shot.
Tippett believes he has the potential to be the player who drew the Flyers to him in the first place. And he’ll stop at nothing to reach it. “I want to go in and be a go-to guy,” he said. “I want to be a steady, everyday player. With the opportunity there, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to come in and prove myself and get a fresh start.”
Only then, it seems, will he allow himself to catch up on his Netflix queue.