Garnet Hathaway has often been a player that plays a rather physical game and likes to get under opponents skin. He doled out 268 hits, good for eighth during the regular season. It’s a role that he has grown in throughout his career and one that involves a fair amount of consistency with as well. That style of play is something that should fit in well with the Flyers fan base. At least Hathaway hopes it does.
"“I hope really well. As you said, I think that’s something that, I’ve tried to find my role throughout my career in this league,” Hathaway said during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “And I’ve landed on being difficult to play against and I love to stay competitive, getting under guys skins, but being hard to play against and consistent.It’s a long season, 82 games is a long time and it’s one that you have to get better throughout the season, to be able to grow as a team and individually, you have to be consistent. And that’s something that I try to continue to work on throughout my career but I hope that consistency plus everything you said, I hope that goes well for this organization. And I hope the fan base is as excited about me being here as I am.”"
When Hathaway was a part of the Capitals, and very briefly the Bruins, the teams were generally competitive and playoff teams. Aside from this last year with Washington, Hathaway has had multiple stints in the playoffs, though they were first round exits each time. With the Flyers, the team isn’t expected to be competitive during the next few years. Why would a player in their 30’s want to be a part of something like that? Wouldn’t someone like that want to be playing for a contender at this point in their career?
"”When I look at it, it’s an organization that really wants to improve, has that mindset right now that, I don’t wanna put a label like a rebuild, but it’s one that wants to continue to get better and a lot more competitive than they were last year,” Hathaway said. “And so that’s exciting with a group that is willing to put in the work to do that.Being a big part of it as well, and as you said, I’ll be one of the more veteran players on the team with games played but being able to take what I have learned throughout my career and try and put it into a scenario or a position where guys can take things from it and I’ll learn from them. And we’ll continue to grow, really, together.”"
Hathaway has played against the Flyers quite often during his career. Having been in the Eastern Conference the last four years of his career, he has had many a battle with Philadelphia. In 20 games against the Flyers, Hathaway had five goals, 11 points, 76 hits and 14 blocked shots. He knew first hand how tough the organization used to be to play against.
And now he has a chance to help build the team back up to being that competitive. It’s why he’s excited to join this group of players who are clearly working towards that goal together.
"”You look at it as a whole. This organization has been really tough to play against my entire career. Now, they’re in a spot, and I think our conversation mimicked that, was they want to get back to that position where they’re really difficult to play against and to build up into a competitive team or more competitive team,” Hathaway said. “That’s something I take a lot of pride in, is being difficult to play against. I’m super excited to get that opportunity, especially in this organization with the Flyers where, I think, especially with everything that they said, is to get back to where they wanna be."
One of those players that he had many battles with was Sean Couturier, a player the team expects to have back in the fold this season. He last played in December of 2021 and has since had two back surgeries. He was cleared to play toward the end of the season, though the team held him out due to his lack of camp and overall playing time. But he, like many players on the Flyers, are going to be much more fun to play with than play against.
"“For Sean and a lot of the guys, I think it’s a lot better to be on the same side after battling against those guys for so many years. I’m excited to get to know Sean and see him as a player on the other side,” Hathaway said “It’s always difficult to go up against him and, so to see him, especially in training camp and as we get throughout the season, really be competitive and battle in practice, but then be able to celebrate when he does something on the ice that’s positive, I’m looking forward to that.”"
Another tough guy that Hathaway will now have to face is Alex Ovechkin. The two played together for three and a half years. Getting to see that one-timer shot up close, Hathaway had the perfect view of someone he considered to be the greatest goal-scorer of all time. Now he will be on the other side of that shot, something that isn’t going to be easy to stop.
"“I don’t think there’s another player like Ovi. I think he’s the greatest goal-scorer of all time,” Hathaway said “And yeah, for those three and a half years I was able to play on the same side of him. It was a lot more fun to see him take that one-timer, see that iconic shot of his and celebrate the goals.This will be my fourth team in my career so I’m getting more comfortable playing against guys that I’ve played with. But he’s one you’re always gonna have to pay attention to. There’s a lot of high skill in this league, but I don’t think there’s a goal-scorer like him.”"
Having that experience playing with someone like Ovechkin has helped Hathaway grow as a leader. It’s that kind of role that he will play in the locker room this season. After having played on teams with plenty of older players, Hathaway now joins a group that is moving younger and younger during this rebuild.
At 31 years old, Hathaway is the second oldest player on the Flyers, behind Marc Staal. Ryan Ellis is older by almost a full year, but it’s uncertain what role he’s playing in the room at this point. For Hathaway, this will be something that he will grow into during the season. It’s not a role he’s familiar with, but he’s had plenty of strong leaders around him that have helped teach him what it takes to bring a group together.
"”I’ve been really fortunate to play with a lot of successful guys in this league, guys who’ve won Stanley Cups and awesome leaders,” Hathaway said. “And I’ve been on, as you look at it, I’ve been on older teams. I think I’ve been on just above the average age of almost every team that I’ve been on. And now I’m on the other side of the spectrum there.I’m one of the older guys as you said, but I would love to say still in my prime too. It’s one of those things I’ve tried to pick up lots of things from the players that I’ve been able to play with and find out what it takes to be successful. What it takes to get a group to pull together to get where they wanna be. So that’s something, I’m excited to take that step into that position.”"
Doing that on a team in which you aren’t familiar with any of the players isn’t easy. It’ll take time to gel as a unit, but this is an organization that Hathaway has only heard incredible things about.
"”I reached out to a few guys who had played here. I reached out to a few guys that played under Torts and tried to get more of a gauge of how they liked every part of it — the city, the organization, the training facility, really everything,” Hathaway said.“And I heard unbelievable things and that goes for the coaching staff, up to management and how everyone was treated. That was really exciting to hear and at the same time talking to them, feeling wanted, feeling like there was a lot of interest, and then hearing all the positive things about the organization, that just made me even more excited about them.”"
It was important for him to also talk with players who played under John Tortorella as well. The message was pretty clear on what to expect. And it’s exactly what everyone has said before.
"“I talked to a lot of guys from different stages in their career and different teams that they had played for him,” Hathaway said. “It was a lot of what you hear from guys who play for him now — a very honest coach, not someone who is going to sugarcoat things, but is going to demand the best out of you, effort-wise, too.”“I heard get ready for camp because I don’t think there’s another one like it. But I think once you put that effort in and you have that willingness to work hard to get to that goal that you achieve within that room, it makes it all worth it.”"
A Tortorella camp is certainly something to get ready for. With the mindset Hathaway spoke of, it sounds as if he is going to be a perfect voice to have in the Flyers locker room. Likely to play on the fourth line with Nicolas Deslauriers and Ryan Poehling, the three should form a physical and hardworking trio for Philadelphia. And that’s exactly what the team is looking for. Hathaway should fit in with that quite well.