When they start naming their newborns after you, oh baby, you’ve arrived.
Just ask Carter Hart, not just another pretty face behind a goalie mask in Philadelphia. They haven’t fallen this hard for a goalie in FlyersNation since Hall of Famer Bernie Parent, who had a religious following with the ubiquitous “Only the Lord Saves More than Bernie Parent” bumper stickers.
Hart, 21, has captured the imagination of the Flyer fans because it’s been a revolving door in the net with the late Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall only managing to have the same level of love in the last 35 years. Hart had a .917 save percentage in 31 games as a rookie; 1.62 avg and .938% in three games this October, before the Oilers game this week.
“I went back there in July, went into an Apple store and somebody came up to me and said ‘Hey, Carter, we’d like you to meet our newborn baby Carter’ … that was pretty crazy. Never had that happen before,” said Sherwood Park’s Hart, who made his first start in his hometown on Wednesday when the Flyers play the Edmonton Oilers.
Mom Shauna was in the house but dad John, a contract co-ordinator at Enbridge, won’t be. They saw his NHL debut in Philly last season but John, a former NAIT Ooks forward, is in Regina for work. He cheered from long-distance for Wednesday’s game. Hart was pulled during the second period following a Nugent-Hopkin’s power play goal. He allowed four goals in 14 shots.
His dad’s consolation prize comes next month with a sports double-header with his boy.
“He’s coming to Philadelphia in November for a game and on an off-day Sunday we’ll go see the (NFL) Eagles,” said Hart.
Like most kids, Hart wanted to emulate his dad, at first.
“I wanted to be a forward but I got thrown into the net a few times when I was nine and I really liked it. The feeling I had making saves was something I enjoyed a lot more than scoring goals and I told my dad that… at first he wasn’t happy, but he accepted it,” said Carter.
Pads are the goalie’s basic tool but masks are more individualistic than pillows.
“I have two new masks coming (he won’t say what they are but one is a tribute mask) and right now I’m wearing a Carnage mask from Marvel. I’m a big Marvel movie guy. Carnage’s colours are similar to ours,” said Hart, who also wears the unusual 79 to celebrate his autistic friend Connor, who wore that numbered jersey to junior games.
Hart still watches the Food Network for his TV fix, just as he did when he was playing junior with the Everett Silvertips, and while he’s not quite ready to start up his own garage band, he’s also really into the guitar, electric and acoustic.
“Yeah, I watch a lot of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives … I love Chopped and Master Chef,” he said.
“I don’t think I’d ever make it on those shows (Gordon Ramsay yelling at him). I need to perfect my cooking a little better but my stir-fries are really good. Ask my billet (Parker Fowlds in Everett). Funny story, he called me the other day looking for my recipe for stir-fry. He has two new billets, made the stir-fry for them and while they never had it before, Parker tried it and said ‘Ah, man, this isn’t even close to Carter’s,’’’ said Hart.
But it’s in the net where he’s doing his best.
Hart’s technique is unflustered with an economy of motion, very sound.
The first time around the NHL last season might have seemed like one extended first-day of school for Hart. New buildings, fun times.
“Last year was great because I got to experience what the NHL was. But we have a great group of guys here, I got to know them last year and now I’m comfortable,” said Hart. “Coming into this season I prepared the same as I always do. I know what to expect and also know what I need to do to perform my best every night.”
Hart ironically works on ice in the summer with Oilers goalie coach Dustin Schwartz, who may know his weaknesses.
“We’ll see. He’ll be having his pre-scout with a plan for me.”
He is quiet in the net. But, he’s also mindful of thinking the game. Former Oilers goalie coach John Stevenson, now a sports psychologist, works with Hart. Stevenson’s idea is to live in the now.
“You can’t dwell in the past or worry about the future… just try and stay in the present,” said Hart.
“Just worry about the task at hand. Sometimes you can get caught up on dwelling on past goals or moments or the outcome of games. As soon as you do that, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
“I’ve learned that at a young age from John. Whether I’m on the ice or off. When I’m at the rink, I’m focused on what’s going on there. When I’m not, I’m focused on that.”
The guitar is another outlet to rest his mind.
“I took lessons again this summer back in Sherwood Park and I’ve gotten quite a bit better,” said Hart. “Most nights I strum along with it but when I moved into my place (in Philly) I walked down the hall and heard a guy playing an electric. I haven’t introduced myself, but I thought ‘Oh, boy, I won’t be the only guy on the sixth floor playing a guitar at night.’’’
Hart loves music, and it’s loud.
“I’m into punk … I like Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Green Day. There’s a newer band called the Vaccines. I like old-school rock, AC/DC, Aerosmith. I’m into more relaxed stuff before games but once I get closer (to puck-drop), I like to ramp it up a bit, I’m into more high-energy to get myself going,” he said.