Carter Hart
The kid reviving the Flyers
By Chuck Darrow

Ask Carter Hart to use one word to describe his life since the day the 20-year-old goaltending phenom learned he was being promoted, and youll see his mouth widen into a grin as he takes a moment to think. Then it hits him. 

Awesome,” he says as the smile continues to split his face.  

That simple comment can also be applied to the effect Hart has had on the team. When he was called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms the week before Christmas, the orange and black were more like black and blue, carrying the weight of a disappointing 12-15-4 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference. All he did, beginning with his first game, was tie the record for the most consecutive wins by a goalie – eight – before his 21st birthday. The streak, which ended last month, helped propel the team into playoff contention, a destination that appeared next-to-impossible before he arrived. 

Thus it is that Hart has had the hopes and dreams of Flyers fans everywhere hoisted upon his shoulders, even though he wont be able to legally toast his success until August. But he has shown remarkable maturity in his newfound role as savior, handling his ascension to the exalted status of Delaware Valley hero with a calm maturity that belies his age. According to the native of Sherwood Park, a suburb of the western Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, his ability to deal with his unique situation is a pretty simple proposition. 

Im just trying to take things one day at a time. I dont want to get too ahead of myself and not worry about the next task at hand. I approach every day with a fresh new mindset coming ready to work, whether thats at practice or down in the gym,” he says. 

The strategy – in addition to his impressive net-minding – has endeared him to Flyers’ head coach Scott Gordon. 

Hes just 20 years old, and to be able to come in here and handle this situation knowing what the expectations were, hes done a tremendous job and hasnt gotten rattled by anything thats been thrown at him,” says Gordon. 

We talk about his physical tools, but the mental side of his game is just as strong as the physical. He just seems so grounded for someone that young. 

Hart, whose slim, youthful appearance makes him seem more suited to a role in a Harry Potter” film than in the rough-and-tumble world of professional ice hockey, is likely aided by his insistence on keeping his life in perspective. 

I think its important in a long season like this, that when youre at the rink, your focus is at the rink,” he says. But when youre away from the rink, at home or with friends, its time to be away from the rink and get that balance. Thats something Ive kind of learned over the years. My parents talked about that with me and stressed it. 

Harts measured, even-keel lifestyle may be unexpected for someone his age, but its not his mental makeup that has made him fans’ newest sports crush. Some of the optimism may be premature, but many believe he has the goods to be an elite goalie. 

Hart has had a great start,” acknowledges Medfords Al Morganti, longtime co-host of the morning-drive program on WIP-FM and NBC Sports Philadelphias pre- and post-game Flyers analyst. But he cautions that nobody is going to remind anybody of Bernie Parent until they ride around in a couple of parades. 

Nonetheless, Morganti speaks of a weird dynamic in which it appears the whole team is playing to make their little brother look good. But their little brother is an enormous talent. 

With just a few months of NHL experience under his belt, Hart, who claims his only real knowledge of the Flyers growing up was that of the legendary Broad Street Bullies,” is clearly still learning his way around the major-league game. Hes also learning his way around the area he plays for – and getting an education. 

He says he quickly figured out the regions residents are very passionate” when it comes to their pro sports franchises, especially the football team. I got to go to an Eagles game a couple months ago and experienced how hectic the fans are and how much the team is loved around Philadelphia. It was quite an experience,” he says. 

Hes also still adapting to life in the very big city and its suburbs. 

Where Im from, Edmonton, its about a million people in the whole area, but its pretty spread out. Phillys pretty condensed and theres like what, 6 million people in the area? Its pretty big. And I played in Everett last year, which  is a suburb of Seattle, and it still wasnt this big.”  

Given what weve seen so far, its easy to imagine a future for the kid goalie that includes multiple individual honors and one day a ride down Broad Street surrounded by hundreds of thousands of delirious fans. But even those potential milestones may not measure up to the night Hart first skated onto the Wells-Fargo Center ice. 

I couldnt sleep the night before,” he says. The fans were cheering really loud, and the game was against Detroit, an original six’ team. It was dreamlike, pinch me! It was a pretty special day, and something Ill never forget.”   

March 2019
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