He's one of the most recognizable figures in the NHL and not just because of his trademark reddish-orange curly locks typically flowing from under his Flyers helmet. But rather, Hartnell's uncanny ability to never take himself too seriously is what endears him to his teammates, the fans in Philly, and opponents alike. His off-ice philanthropic work is highlighted by the 2012 creation of his own #hartnelldown Foundation, the proudest achievement of his personal and professional life.
Kathryn Tappen: Did you really think you'd get away with throwing the glove at Ryan Malone while he was on a breakaway in 2008?
Sccott Hartnell: [laughs] I thought people forgot about that already. I don't really know what I was thinking. I know Ryan, and he kicked the stick away from me when he got that breakaway so I had no stick. I was mad that he did that, and obviously went clueless and it was a desperation thing. I didn't think about what might happen. He got awarded the penalty shot. I laugh when I think about it now, but it wasn't really funny at the time.
Scott Hartnell's philanthropic work is highlighted by the 2012 creation of his own #hartnelldown Foundation. (Photo: Philadelphia Flyers)
KT: You turned that on-ice incident into a positive shortly thereafter, attending the next Phantoms game to emcee the "Scott Hartnell Glove & Mitten Toss," which was created after your famous glove toss at Malone. The Phantoms collected more than 700 new pairs of gloves and mittens that night for Operation Warm. Pretty impressive.
SH: I felt good to turn that situation into something positive, and put some warm gear on people who are less fortunate. If you look on a lot of teams, there are jokesters and pranksters. You have to be able to make fun of yourself and laugh. I think that's a good quality to have. I do that pretty well, because the simple things that I do tend to be a bit bizarre. But that's who I am.
KT: I guess that was just the beginning of your off-ice philanthropic endeavors. In 2012, you created #hartnelldown Foundation. How did you come up with the concept for your own charity?
SH: There was a fan in one of the cities we played in on the road with a poster-board sign that said "Hartnell Down" with a ticker on it. It was at about 145, and I had no idea what it meant. I kept racking my brain during warm-ups, wondering what it meant. Then a few weeks later we're on the road again, and I see the sign again but it said "Hartnell Down 171" and I was like "OK, it went up 30-something. And I still have no idea what it means. So I sent my trainer to go over to this guy and find out what it all meant. My trainer came back to me laughing and he said, "The guy watches every single game and counts how many times you fall." I couldn't believe it. I didn't think I fell that much! Next thing you know, my agent's wife suggested making T-shirts and giving the proceeds to charity. We ended up selling just short of 500 T-shirts. Once I tweeted there was a website for it, it took off.
KT: From 500 T-shirts, you're upwards of more than $360,000 in gross sales of merchandise now. Does it blow your mind that a simple concept created this unbelievable #hartnelldown Foundation to support charities involving youth through physical activity and sport in communities across the United States and Canada?
SH: Every time I think about it, I am blown away by the support of everyone. It's overwhelming. I never thought I would have my own charity and do this kind of work. I've given back over the years in many different ways, but to have your own foundation is awesome. The Flyers fans all over the world have been so supportive. People have big hearts and love to support great things.
KT: In your most recent project, you partnered with your sister, Kyla Hartnell, to write a children's book which chronicles all of your falls on your road to the NHL. How did this idea evolve?
SH: I brought it up at a board meeting for our foundation. I thought it would a good idea to create a children's book about when you get knocked down, you get right back up again. It happens in school, when you get a bad grade, you study harder next time. My sister and I spoke afterward and she said she thought it was a really great idea. So I had one believer in the group. I started writing things down, she got started as well, and we have this masterpiece!
[Editor's Note: To date, more than 2,600 books have been sold, with more than 400 being donated to youth organizations across the country. During the past year, the #hartnelldown Foundation has made plans for sales of the book to be a fundraising opportunity for youth hockey programs in the U.S. and Canada]
KT: A "#Down-O-Meter" on your foundation website keeps track of your falls, and you are on pace for around 300 this season, resulting in $15,000 of direct support to your charity. You better keep falling!
SH: Sometimes the falls are a lot harder than when you just lose an edge. Yesterday I went face-first into the post. But it's amazing how fast the dollars rack up over an 82-game season!
Scott Hartnell has been nominated for the NHL Foundation Player Award this season. (Photo: Philadelphia Flyers)
KT: Your team nominated you for the NHL Foundation Player Award this season. What does that mean to you?
SH: I spoke to [owner] Mr. [Ed] Snider after our game last week. He's always there in the room after and he pulled me aside. I thought I was getting in trouble! But he told me that they had nominated me for the award. I was in shock a bit. Mr. Snider does so much for the city of Philadelphia. To be recognized by him means a lot. I am overwhelmed and grateful. I am so proud that people are still supporting it and interested in it.
KT: What would it mean to you to be nominated for the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy?
SH: It would be an absolute honor. I don't think I would ever get nominated for the Art Ross! Vinny Lecavalier won it a few years back. To be a part of that history and be nominated would be a huge honor for sure.
KT: Well if you keep playing with Claude Giroux you may get an Art Ross!
SH: [laughs] Yeah, exactly; just have to put the puck in the net!
KT: What was it like growing up in Lloydminster, Alberta?
SH: It was pretty cool recently to see Hockey Night in Canada do their "Hockey Day in Canada" in my hometown, it's very small. I was like every little kid growing up in a small town in Canada playing hockey. I wanted to play in the NHL. We played hockey almost every month of the year. I am still very close with a few of my buddies that I played minor hockey with and baseball in the summers. We still are in contact and they come to some of my games. It's nice to have that connection to people from your childhood, not many people can say that. I trust these buddies with my life.
KT: You've spent the better part of seven seasons now in Philadelphia. What's the best part about playing in that city?
SH: Just the atmosphere at the rink and around town. It's a hockey city. The team loves their Phillies, the Eagles, but it seems like hockey is instilled in everybody. The fans appreciate hard work, win or lose. It's a blue-collar city and I love playing here.
KT: As our Philadelphia tour guide, what are the top three spots in the city to visit?
SH: The Rocky Steps [Philadelphia Museum of Art] for sure would be No. 1. No. 2 would be the Liberty Bell. That's always a great one to see. No. 3 would be the infamous cheesesteak places, Geno's or Pat's. You always have to tell people to try both and decide for themselves which one is better.
KT: What's the best restaurant in Philly?
SH: I would have to say Spasso [Italian Grill]. It's a great Italian restaurant. About 12 of us eat our pregame meal there before our home games. It's awesome comfort Italian food.
KT: Where do you spend your offseason?
SH: I just built a house in Kelowna, B.C. A bunch of guys from our team and around the League go there. Last year was my first full summer out there and it was the best summer I ever had.
KT: I hear you like to read a lot of books. What are you reading now?
SH: John Grisham's "Sycamore Row." I have about 100 pages left. I like to read before I go to bed. It puts me to sleep and relaxes me. I always enjoy reading.