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Hartman embraced as member of Flyers at Blackhawks bar owned by parents

Former Chicago forward returned to face hometown team with Philadelphia

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Craig and Kim Hartman usually don't get to United Center for Chicago Blackhawks games anymore.

After all, they have a bar to run, Bar Down Sports Grill, about 40 miles northwest of Chicago in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. It is completely dedicated to the Blackhawks, the team Craig has rooted for since his days growing up in Garfield Park, a few miles from United Center. 

But Craig was at the arena on Thursday, standing below the seats in Section 108. The man who runs a Blackhawks bar was rooting for a member of the Philadelphia Flyers: his son, forward Ryan Hartman.

"There's part of me that still wishes he was in a Blackhawks sweater but, it's good to be back and be at the UC watching him," Craig said of Ryan, who played his first four NHL seasons (2014-18) for Chicago. "It's just kind of different. We never thought he'd play in this arena, then we made a home of it, so coming back it seems a little different. But it's still special, so [we're] still pretty fortunate."

Still, Ryan playing for an out-of-town team has created some odd scenes at Bar Down. More than 100 people were there for an unofficial Flyers watch party March 6, when Philadelphia lost 5-3 at home to the Washington Capitals.

"Pretty much everyone here, except for a few Flyers fans, are family and friends who come to support," Craig said that night. "It's still a pretty tight community and we all support each other, which is nice."

At the party, Craig handed out Flyers knit hats and orange beads. Carol Balousek of Algonquin, Illinois, who has known the Hartman family for nearly 20 years, wore an orange wig that Kim brought for her. Sharon and Jim Hartman, Ryan's grandparents from Palatine, Illinois, sat with six or seven other family members near the big screen toward the back of Bar Down. Sharon joked that she has to keep changing outfit colors -- she wore an orange T-shirt that night -- but said she is proud to watch her grandson, regardless of which team he is on (he has also played for the Nashville Predators).

"I still can't get over the fact that he's in the NHL. It's exciting," Sharon said of the 24-year-old. "When I'm watching at home, we have the TVs going in the kitchen, in the family room. I can't sit still."

Hartman also had people rooting for him at Bar Down on Thursday, when about 25 customers, mostly Blackhawks fans, showed up to watch the game, bartender Rebecca Dodgen said.

"It was a lot of regulars who come up for most of the games and supporters who knew Ryan was playing," she said.

Dodgen said customers have been receptive to more Flyers games being shown at Bar Down.

"It's actually been awesome," she said. "It's amazing how many Flyers fans have shown so much support and are randomly coming in, even if there isn't a game playing."

Ryan, whose family lives in West Dundee, Illinois, was selected by the Blackhawks in the first round (No. 30) of the 2013 NHL Draft and made his NHL debut Feb. 13, 2015, at home against the New Jersey Devils. 

He played four more games for Chicago that season and three in 2015-16, playing most of those two seasons for nearby Rockford of the American Hockey League. He became a full-time Blackhawks player in 2016-17, finishing with 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 76 games. 

In December of 2017, Craig became a Bar Down owner, joining one of his business partners who had owned the bar for 20 years. They then decided to make it an official Blackhawks bar, which was perfect because Ryan for playing for Chicago. But Ryan was soon traded to Nashville on Feb. 26, 2018. Then he was traded again this season, from the Predators to Flyers on Feb. 25. 

"We put in renovations, became an official Blackhawks bar," said Kim, who is also an owner, "not knowing Ryan would be traded a few times along the way.

"The first (trade) was really tough, the second time it wasn't. We're just lucky he's playing in the NHL, so wherever it is, you're still playing, and someone wants you. It's exciting. For him, every time he's gotten traded, it brings the adrenaline back. He loves that. He loves proving himself."

Just as Predators games were shown in Bar Down when Ryan played in Nashville, Flyers games were now being featured. Craig and Kim don't get much time to watch Ryan's games there -- Craig is busy with restaurant duties and checking on customers while Kim bartends -- so they record them. If Craig does get time, he'll watch on a television upstairs. Kim sneaks in looks whenever she can.

She also turns toward the TV whenever she hears a broadcaster mention Ryan, as when she was working at Bar Down when the Predators acquired Ryan from the Blackhawks.

Kim said the Flyers fans she has met, in person or on social media, have been great. Three members of the Flyers public relations department went to Bar Down to meet the Hartmans on Thursday. Phans of Philly, which organizes travel packages for Philadelphia sports fans, told Kim in a tweet that it would possibly bring some to Bar Down prior to the game Thursday. That didn't happen, but Kim met up with some fans and bought them beers at United Center.

Ryan saw a photo of Kim with the Flyers fans on his phone after the game, which Philadelphia won 3-1.

"Good for her, trying to help me win over some fans," said Ryan, who said he misses not seeing his family as much as he used to. "I've had it pretty good for a while. Even when I was in Rockford, I was 30 minutes from home. It was very easy. Now you have to plan the trips and all that stuff. I was spoiled. But I do miss them."

Ryan, who has 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 76 games this season, met with his family after the game for about five minutes before he left for Philadelphia. The Hartmans don't get to see Ryan during the season as much as when he played in Chicago, but they take advantage of the times they do.

"He's on his own, he's an adult, so it's not like I'm supposed to see him all the time," said Ryan's 17-year-old brother, Tanner. "But it does make the moments I do see him much more special."

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