Photo by Steve Jacot
Scott Hartnell was far from an ideal hockey player during his time in Philadelphia. He fell, he fought, he missed shots. The man was a skating brain fart at times. His contract wasn’t great. Hextall had justification for exchanging it for another, slightly shorter, bad contract in R.J. Umberger. But what Hartsy lacked in common sense and balance, he made up for in personality.
Hockey has trouble catching on in the U.S. due to the bland vanilla personas that the sport produces. “Oh, ya know, we’re just gonna give it our all and try to win,” is the script and damned is the hockey player that doesn’t follow it. P.K. Subban gets butchered in the media when he dares to show some cockiness. A little braggadocio can go a long way when you’re in the business of entertaining thousands on a nightly basis. Personality just makes a sport so much more fun.
There’s a reason that 2011-12 team felt so much more fun than the more successful teams that preceded them. That’s not even close to one of the best teams in Flyers history, but they had a ton of personality. Ilya Bryzgalov was fantastically weird. Jaromir Jagr oozed charm. And then there was Hartsy.
That was the season where Hartnell earned his current contract. He fought and fell and scored his way into our hearts. “Suck it Phaneuf!” was his Captain Caveman battle cry as Hartnell turned from one of the most loathed Flyers into one of the most loved, at least for a moment. Who can forget his interactions with the crowd in Pittsburgh during the playoffs? After Jagr and Bryzgalov departed Philadelphia, Hartnell stayed on as the Flyers’ big red piece of flair.
The Flyers lost a decent scorer and winger in that trade. It’s not the worst thing, Hartnell is certainly a replaceable commodity hockey-wise. But who the heck is the team going to get to fill that void personality wise? They don’t even have a weird goalie now. Jakub Voracek’s a little odd, but he’s not exactly falling on his face and trash talking guys when he’s trucking around them and dishing out filthy apples. Rinaldo’s ridiculous, but he’s still your typical hockey player when you throw a mic in his face. Will Vinny Lecavalier become a loveable hot mess overnight? Can R.J. Umberger do…um…anything?
Thanks for bringing some color to the game Hartsy, we’ll miss you, even when we don’t.