The transformation for Scott Hartnell has been impressive.
Going from just being a run-of-the-mill hockey player to an NHL All-Star in the span of two years should not be understated. The commitment and an on-point work ethic are necessary to make such a transition.
That, of course, is magnified even more when it happens with a player who has been a professional for a decade.
It would have been easy for Hartnell to just continue on his path of complacency – of just being a guy with enough natural ability to get by, stay in the NHL and collect a paycheck.
But Hartnell wanted to make a difference. He didn’t just want to be another guy in the league. He wanted to be a reliable contributor - someone who can leave an indelible mark on the sport.
And ever since a heart-to-heart with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette early in the magical 2010 playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final, Hartnell has done just that.
And now, he’s being rewarded for his efforts.
The Flyers have signed Hartnell to a six-year contract extension today, locking up one of the game’s best power forwards through the 2018-19 season.
“We are pleased to announce that we have agreed with Scott on a multi-year extension,” said general manager Paul Holmgren in a statement. “Scott has been a very good player for us over the last five seasons and we look forward to many more good years to come.”
Hartnell agreed to a deal now rather than wait for after the new collective bargaining agreement is signed.
It guaranteed him money for a sixth year, which is something the NHL is trying to prevent as part of their negotiations. The league wants to cap contracts at a five-year maximum.
“I plan on playing all six years and playing my heart out for the city of Philadelphia, the fans and of course the bosses upstairs,” Hartnell said. “I don’t think my value would have changed much in a year… I thought about honestly waiting until the new CBA was signed so the rollback wouldn’t affect me. But if there is a rollback that will [set] a new marketplace as well. So it was six in one hand and half a dozen in a nother. I just know I love Philly and I want to be there. I’m not going to be sour about it. I’m just going to put on my skates and go out there and work hard every day.”
Since that 2010 playoff run, Hartnell has been nothing short of excellent for the Flyers.
Joining Danny Briere and Ville Leino in that postseason, Hartnell posted 17 points in 23 playoff games.
He played a full season in 2010-11 and had a solid year with 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points. But it was last season that he really became the All-Star caliber talent that ultimately enticed the Flyers to lock him up for practically the rest of the decade.
Hartnell, moved to the Flyers top line alongside Claude Giroux, posted career highs in goals (37) assists (30 – which matched a career best) and points (67) and was named the NHL Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time.
It was another chat with Laviolette at the start of last season that fueled Hartnell. He had started the first five games on the fourth line and wasn’t getting power play time, but after talking to Laviolette, he was given a chance with Giroux and Jaromir Jagr and it paid major dividends.
“I love the way Lavvy coaches,” Hartnell said. “He’s an offensive-minded coach and loves guys to get it on the forecheck and guys that hit. He’s a real motivator for me. He can call you out in a particular group or in front of everyone or sit you down if you need a spanking to get going again. Hopefully we can continue that chemistry and build on bigger and better years for the Flyers.”
But it was so much more than that.
Hartnell, who at times before his renaissance was a target of fan anger and occasional ridicule, made peace with his quirks and decided to modify his guarded public persona and put them to good use.
He began engaging the Flyers fans on social media, which immediately showed those cheering for the team that he was as personable and fun as his teammates knew him to be.
“The Flyers made a commitment to me five years ago to be a Flyer and I’ve loved every second of it,” Hartnell said. “We have a great team, a great bunch of guys, a great future and a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
He also began to play along with the fans counting how many times he fell down on the ice, turning the Twitter count into a charitable arm that exploded at the All Star game last year when #HartnellDown went viral, and made him an immensely popular player across two countries.
But, aside from his image, Hartnell also did something else that really wowed Flyers management – he became an off-ice mentor to a lot of the Flyers younger players. He took guys like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read under his wing.
That was put on full display during HBO’s 24/7 special last year when Hartnell had all three guys over his house for Christmas.
But, it was a lot more than just being a holiday host. He was a positive influence in the locker room on a team that featured seven rookies for much of the season.
In the past, every time Hartnell was questioned by the media about the possibility of waiving the no trade clause in his contract if he was asked, Hartnell always answered that he’d decline.
His constant answer was something along the lines of “I love it in Philadelphia. I love this organization. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”