Its something you feel in the air like a chill. The hair on the back of your neck stands up, and the anticipation builds. There are moments in life where you feel it before it happens. Where a moment so amazing comes, and for the rest of your life you get to say, i was there.
The city of Philadelphia has been waiting with baited breath for the goalie of the future. Since Ron Hextall’s retirement in 1999, no goalie has been able to stay healthy, and play to the standard needed to win playoff series’. Year after year, goalies go through injuries, or subpar performances, always just missing the mark.
Then, 17 years after his retirement, Ron Hextall -the last true Flyers goalie- selected Carter Hart with the 48th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, and labeled him the goalie Philadelphia has been waiting for.
The WHL goalie boasted a 116–46–19 record over his career, with a 2.01 GAA, a .927 save percentage and 26 shutouts. He is the only goaltender to ever win CHL goaltender of the year twice, and was named WHL Goalie of the Year and Player of the Year for the 2017-2018 season.
Fast forward 2 and a half years. The season is in shambles, the front office a mess, and rumors and speculation run amuck. The fanbase is calling for change, any change that can show promise to the people who have followed this team loyally for decades with little to show for it.
Then two tweets.
all of a sudden, there’s hope.
a game on a Tuesday in the middle of December suddenly means the world.
an arena that has been quiet for years, erupts as a 20 year old kid steps on the ice. The future that the Flyers have been promising fans is no longer 10, 5, 2 years away. The future begins now.
Hart played well in his NHL debut. A scoreless first period, 20 saves on 22 shots for a .909 save percentage. No spectacular saves, but no goals that should have been stopped. Carter Hart played well, and thats all Philadelphia needed.
Now, if you don’t know Philadelphia or the Wells Fargo Center there are a couple of things you need to know. First off, its quiet, always. The fans have become so disinterested in the team that they would rather sit in silence than pretend to have enthusiasm for lack luster performances.
Secondly, the standard for excellence is low. When something good does happen, Flyers fans will let the team know. Last year there was a standing ovation because the power play was dominant for two minutes. No goal. Just a good offensive power play that garnered a standing ovation.
Thirdly, the Welly is HUNGRY. The people of Philadelphia don’t enjoy the silence. They don’t want to be booing their players or chanting for coaches to be fired. All the people of Philadelphia want, is to win.
So when Carter Hart stepped onto the ice, on a Tuesday night in December, to a sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, the building roared in a way that it hadn’t in months. Seats were shaking, phones were lit up, as the future of the franchise took the ice to screams and cheers and faith in a team that had recently been missing.
But more impressive than Hart’s entrance, was after the game. When Detroit stalled the ending by challenging for a penalty, the fans remained. Waiting on one thing.
“Third Star – Shayne Gostisbehere” – enthusiastic cheering
“Second Star – James van Reimsdyk” – enthusiastic cheering
“First Star of the night, with his first NHL Win, Carter Hart”, the building explodes, fans launch to their feet as the 20 year old goalie waves to the city. His mom cries in her seat watching her son live the moment he has been dreaming of and working towards since he was 4 years old. Carter Hart plays in the NHL.
Hart is most likely not going to stay with the Flyers for the remainder of the season. Brian Elliott will return from injury and retake his spot as the starter. Hart will return to Lehigh Valley and continue to grow and develop and prepare for next fall. Because Tuesday was a moment, a piece, a glimpse of the future of Philadelphia Flyers Hockey.
The chill in the air could have been the December wind, but I like to believe it was the rush of excitement. The hair on the back of my neck could have been adrenaline, but I am choosing to think it was the knowledge that what was about to happen was going to change Flyers hockey forever. Despite all of these uncertainties, one thing is for sure. For the rest of time, when someone talks about Carter Hart, I get to say on December 18th, 2018, when he stepped onto the ice as a Flyer for the very first time…. I was there.