(For our Rookie Issue earlier this season, we ask Blue Jackets veteran and NHL fan favorite Scott Hartnell to provide some advice to himself 15 years ago when he entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie with the Nashville Predators. This is what he had to say…) Hey Buddy: Wow, that was some hit, wasn’t it? You’ll probably never skate through the neutral zone with your head down when
Darren Langdon is on the ice again, right? In case you’re wondering where you are at the moment, you’re in Raleigh, N.C. Actually, you’re in an ambulance and, yeah, that’s your dad riding with you. Way to screw up the Dads’ Trip there, pal.
You’re probably in no mood to read this right now, but this is as good a time as any. It’s your 32-year-old self here, and in case your head is too scrambled to figure out, it’s 2015. Hey, and guess what, you’re playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets these days. They’re the guys who came into the league as an expansion team a couple months ago.
I’m writing to you because you need to know everything has turned out pretty great. I know things don’t look so promising right now, with you being carted off to the hospital and all, but you’ll learn to stop playing like what your coach Barry Trotz calls, “a bull in a china shop.” You’ll still be a physical player, but you’ll learn to pick your spots better. By the way, you have a concussion, and you’re going to miss the next six games, but you’ll finish the season in Nashville without having to go back to Prince Albert, and you’ll go 14 years without ever playing in the minors. That’s pretty sweet.
You know those two goals you have right now? Well, you can forget about getting any more of those for the rest of this season. Seriously. Two goals in 75 games. Two goals used to be a good period when you played minor hockey in Regina, but you’re in the big leagues now. So you’ve probably already figured out that you’re not winning the Calder Trophy this year. But you are going to learn some valuable lessons. You know the other night when you were out there in overtime against
Peter Forsberg and he juked you for a great scoring chance and Trotz nailed you to the bench for the rest of the overtime period? Remember how stupid Forsberg made you look when you tried to poke the puck away from him? Yeah, you’ll learn to laugh about that one in time. I’m here to let you know about a couple things you don’t realize yet. The first is that even though you’re 18 and it looks like you’re going to play this game forever, appreciate every day in the league like it’s your last. You’re going to grow into a really good team guy who shows up every night and can score 30 goals in a good season, and that’s all good. There will be some bumps along the way, too, but in 14 years you’re going to look back and realize how lucky you’ve been to play for as long as you have. And as soon as you realize the rent is due on the first of the month, you’re going to be just fine. It’s funny how a landlord who wants his rent doesn’t really seem to care that you were out of town on a road trip and forgot to pay him before you left. You’ve been living with your parents and your billets in Prince Albert all your life, and you probably thought those things got taken care of on their own. Well, guess what? They don’t. You’re going to pay a bunch of late fees until you figure this one out on your own. But the most important thing I can tell you is never, ever forget the golden rule. You know those guys who work at the rink? Treat every one of them well, all the time. Your trainers, man, those guys work really hard. Appreciate them. There are a bunch of guys in this room, like
Bill Houlder and
Cale Hulse, who have treated you pretty well and made you feel welcomed around here. One day you’re going to be in their shoes, so remember how good they were to you when you deal with the young guys that come into your dressing room. By the way, Carolina is not a good place for you. A couple years from now, you’re going to get suspended for something you did there. And guess what? The two games you’re going to miss are going to be the Dads’ Trip again. Lucky for you, your dad is going to have lots of opportunities to watch you play. So just lay back and take it easy. Everything is going to be fine. Sincerely, Scott Hartnell
This feature appears in the Feb. 16 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.