CALGARY, AB -- Standing on the blueline at TD Garden watching famed anthem singer Rene Rancourt toss out his signature, post-anthem, windmill fist bumps last week was very much a ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment for Calgary Flames rookie Garnet Hathaway.
Exchanging fist bumps with San Jose Sharks defenceman Brent Burns in Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss, a melee a spark instigated by Hathaway after the Kennebunkport, ME native was bloodied by a high stick was as much an angered reaction as an ‘I’m here to stay’ moment for the 24-year-old.
“If I’m playing my game, I’m not just sticking my toe in there,” said Hathaway, who grew up in a Boston Bruins household, but didn’t hesitate to coming close to a similar slugfest with defenceman Zdeno Chara last Tuesday. “I have to get in there. There are a lot of great players and a lot of big players in this league. That’s going to happen. If I’m playing my game, that’s going to happen.”
So far so good, kid.
Through the first five skates of his National Hockey League career, Hathaway has two assists, a plus-3 rating, 23 minutes in penalties and has delivered 21 hits.
He’s pleased his employers.
“I’m very impressed,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley, who has averaged Hathaway’s ice time to the tune of 12 minutes per game thus far.
“He knows his DNA and he knows the way he’ll need to play in order to stick in the NHL and make a career in the NHL. The effort that he puts in, the commitment … he’s a fun young man to coach. He pays attention; he wants to do it. It’s plain and simple. He comes onto the ice to compete.”
Hathaway has competed.
He’s also brought energy to a Calgary club that has little to play for down the stretch.
With playoff hopes all but dashed for the Flames, the 16 games remaining on the docket will serve to help sort out potential contenders for roster spots next season.
Hathaway has put himself on the map.
In the minds of Calgary’s coaching staff, too.
And Hathaway has earned rave reviews.
“One of those morning glories … I’ve seen a few in my career,” Hartley started. “But I don’t think with Garnet, it’s no smoke … it’s substance. I really believe that he can do this on a game-to-game basis and he wants to do it. That’s his game. That’s how he plays in Stockton. I’ve known him for a few training camps now.
“He’s always impressed me as a person also. You look at the person on the ice and you look at the person off the ice, he’s the same. He doesn’t wear a costume on the ice. He is who he is, and that’s why I love him.”
The player on the ice, admitted Hathaway, closely resembles the person off it.
“I’ve always been like that,” he said. “If you ask my parents, I’ve always been tough to handle. I’m always running around and trying to get into those areas. As long as I can remember, I haven’t really stopped. I’ve just thrown my body around and trying to get into the mix of things.
“I wouldn’t want to say fiery off the ice but I probably am. How I am on the ice is how I am off the ice, too.”
Hathaway -- both the person and the player -- have the belief he can be an NHL regular.
He’s convincing others he could be around to stay.
“He’s not a pretender,” Hartley said. “He’s there on business and he wants to get it done. Right now, he understands that it’s a great showcase for him. He has a chance to come in, compete with us, and make a name for himself.
“So far, you can tell that he’s getting pretty good grades.”