Is this how this whole clickbait thing works? If so, I just have to say….gotcha! I am of course writing about the 20-year-old sensation Carter Hart. In the span of just two games he has stolen the “Hearts” of Philadelphians across the city and I simply used Gritty as a decoy to lure you in. Now that I have your attention, let’s get this piece rolling.
Monday morning, December 17th, the Flyers fire Head Coach Dave Hakstol coming off of one of the worst west coast road trips in franchise history. This news came as a relief to many Flyer fans, but at the same time a sense of skepticism crept over the city , as a false report of Hakstol’s firing was made earlier in the week. Fast forward to the morning of December 18th and this is when shit begins to hit the fan. On Tuesday morning, it was announced that 20-year-old goalie, Carter Hart was being called up to the NHL and would make his debut that night against the Detroit Red Wings at home. Hart would be the second youngest player in franchise history to start a game in net behind Maxime Ouelett who was 19 when he made his debut. To say this decision did not go over well with the fan base would be an understatement. The fans knew that he had an abundance of talent, but felt that he was nowhere near ready for major league action and was way to young to even sniff the NHL ice
I can only imagine what was going on through Hart’s young mind as game time crept closer. You are 20 years old, about to play in front of an angry fan base who feels that management has no control over their team. A few nights ago you were playing in Leigh Valley and yea…YOU ARE TWENTY YEARS OLD. I mean I am 20 and still have my parent’s do my laundry. Instead of going out on the ice and completely shitting himself like most 20 year olds would, Hart showcased his talents and capitalized on a moment he had been dreaming of his whole life. Hart was not just good, he was great. He showed poise, athleticism, grit and finished the night with 20 saves to go along with the 3-2 win. In the most desperate of times, Hart produced a ray of hope, he showed this town that he is not only ready to compete at this level, but to do so in dominate fashion.
Fast forward a couple of nights and the Flyers were back in front of their home crowd. This time they were squaring off against the Nashville Predators. The Predators came into the contest with a 22-11-2 record which featured one of the best offensive attacks in the NHL. It was announced that Hart would make the start in net for the second straight game and fans were eager to see if the young prospect could give a repeat of Tuesday’s success, or succumb to high pressure. As the game began, it seemed as if Bernie Parent was in net, as Hart was making ever save in the book and doing so with seemingly ease. This high-octane scoring attack that Nashville came in with suddenly looked like an attack with broken skates. As the night grew late, Hart had accounted for 31 saves in route to a 2-1 Flyers win. Hart earned the team’s first star for the second game and a city that was so quick to judge his call up, had suddenly put on their love goggles and was in awe of the young goalkeeper from Canada.
Carter Hart is the hero we didn’t know we ever needed. In a time of great lows and hard, dark places, Hart has come in and simply, made hockey fun again. There is a new juice now in this city. This fan base is now excited to watch Flyers Hockey. The Flyers are now faced with a huge back to back this weekend against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon (Home) and the New York Rangers on Sunday night (Away). It is almost certain that Hart will make the start one of these games, but it is even more likely that he will sit the other. Never the less, the electricity that Hart has brought is a great thing for this team, this fan base, this city. As my friend Andrew Meyers once said, “Don’t let this team get hot, because there is a lot of hockey left to be played.”