As much as we rail against the Flyers in this forum and make jokes about their character and label them "puppy drowners," it is easy to forget these are just hockey players sometimes. Chances are, if they didn't wear orange and black or have a 267 area code, you wouldn't "hate" them. Rick Tocchet is the perfect example of that. He was a scoring winger for the Flyers who would drop the gloves without any hesitation. He was a natural for that market.
Then he came to Pittsburgh where he was equally beloved.
That brings us to Scott Hartnell, the Flyers' fuzzy crash test dummy of a power forward. Since being acquired from Nashville, he's become the consummate Flyer. He combines physicality and scoring in a blend that just fits in well with the Flyers, just like Rick Tocchet did. His play and unique appearance makes him an easy target for Penguins fans such as EN reader Steve Mazefsky who gained a little perspective on Hartnell yesterday:
"I know, I know... As a Western Pennsylvania hockey fan you are born and bred to HATE the Flyers. And I sure have. Years of being beaten by them have made the success the past couple of years extra sweet. During last year's playoffs I had this special jersey made so that I could attempt to irritate the subject of my aggravation as much as possible from my vantage point right next to the visitors' tunnel. Last year, the mission was accomplished! As I hung this jersey over the side of the rail and uttered some unmentionables. Scott Hartnell and a few others were happy to respond in kind, and worse! I hate to admit it at my age, that I found this fun, but frankly... I DID!!
This year, for whatever reason, this player decided that the jersey was funny. The ushers would tell me how he laughed when he saw it, and he would actually wave in the tunnel between periods of the home game, and the banter back and forth was... well, I hate to admit... FRIENDLY... Mike Richards even threw my daughter a puck as they came off the ice, despite the fact that she was with me before the last game. I decided that the banter with the jersey alone had gotten boring, so I went out to get an orange wig to match Hartnell's rather odd haircut/color and made a sign to up the ante. I was greeted today with friendly banter, laughter and again Mike Richards tossed a puck to my daughter as they came off the ice. A few minutes later, one of the Flyers trainers told me that Scott would love to autograph the jersey if I would like that. I told him that this would be great, but I did not really believe it, as players NEVER sign autographs there. Never.
With a couple minutes left in the game, they asked for my jersey to be sent down into the locker room, and despite my cynical nature, I took it off, and it disappeared into the tunnel. As the game ended, and he went through the tunnel, Scott Hartnell handed me the stick he used in the game, and a minute later the trainer brought out the jersey that he signed as the jersey read, 'To my biggest fan, your bud... Scott Fartsmell.'
Yes, he actually signed it, 'Fartsmell!'
I have to tell you that the fact that he took the ribbing in stride, joked back, and then took the time to sign this jersey in the manner that he did, left a very lasting impression. I will not say it too loudly here, but WHAT A CLASS ACT AND GOOD SPORT! The Flyers, more than other visiting team go out of their way to take care of their fans in our arena, but to go out of their way to interact with me, given my attire and loyalties was well above the call of duty to say the least. All three trainers and equipment managers for that team were just as fun to joke around with! Best wishes, and good luck Flyers, except when you play us. And THANKS for a fun time."
Steve's jersey and wig:
-The stick Steve got:
Additionally, we spotted this video of Hartnell having some fun with fans outside Mellon Arena after yesterday's game:
-In light of Mr. Hartnell's coolness, all puppy-drowning jokes will be suspended until sundown.