A career door that not so very long ago must’ve seem all-but-impassable, barricaded and dead-bolted shut, opened a crack two seasons ago.
Last year, through sheer force of will, Garnet Hathaway managed to force it even further ajar.
This October, the aim is to throw that door wide open. Off its hinges, if need be.
In typically truculent style.
“That,” says the Rock-‘Em Sock-‘Em right winger, “is a good analogy. This is the year I really want to take a stride further and make the team full-time.”
Since signing with the Calgary Flames as an undrafted free agent, Hathaway has gone from zero NHL starts his first season pro to 14 and then to 24 in 2016-2017.
A freshly-minted one-year, two-way contract in place, Hathaway is in Providence, R.I., at present, close to his old digs at Brown University and a short hop from Foxboro, Mass., where he’s working out, prepping for the opening of the Flames’ training camp alongside a queue of NHLers such as Brian Boyle, Keith Yandle, Charlie Coyle, Kevin Hayes and Kyle Palmieri, to name but a few.
“A very competitive environment,” he reports. “A great place to train for the summer.”
With the aim, naturally, to being a regular NHLer, a Day One-r, to get off that AHL/NHL elevator at the top floor and put down big-league roots.
In his longer stint at the top level last year he didn’t disappoint, scoring his first NHL goal, against the Detroit Red Wings at The Joe, never compromising on all-in/all-out effort as well as displaying a willingness to rub the right folks the wrong way.
“I guess you could say there was a sense of accomplishment last year … but more encouragement, really,” hedges Hathaway. “It’s a lot different than the AHL, the minor leagues, and it was exciting for me. I gained a lot of confidence.
“I mean, it’s the best league in the world. To play with those guys and not seem out of place, to know you have the calibre to play there, is huge.
“I think the biggest jump I made was maybe mentally. For a lot of professional hockey players, you have to find the belief that you can make it, show the willingness to go out there and do it, but once you get the mind-set, see that you can do it first-hand, you’ve got to hold onto that.”
He’s certainly paid his dues in the minors. His intrinsic qualities are reflected in the ‘A’ stitched on the side of his jersey since the franchise top minor-league affiliate team relocated from Adirondack to California’s San Joaquin County.
“That means a lot,” says Hathaway. “To have quite a few younger guys there looking up to me in a role like that. I wouldn’t consider myself the most talkative person ever but to be seen as leader is a special feeling. I just hope I showed them I was worthy of that letter.”
Seeing as how they’re stylistically similar, the off-season departure of Lance Bouma would seem to seamlessly have opened up a spot on the Flames’ fourth line.
Hathaway, characteristically, doesn’t see things quite that way.
This is someone, be sure, who’ll never take anything for granted.
“It’s probably the same in all jobs, all careers: There’s always somebody out there working just as hard as you,” he says. “Someone who sees that opportunity, as well. As much as we want to believe the door’s opening for us, I’m fighting a lot of other guys for that chance.
“When you count the numbers, look at all the guys … every year is different. In this business, things change quickly.
“But on my side, I’m not going to stop working.
“The way you enter camp is by taking it day-by-day. Pretty standard but it’s still true. You can’t worry about: ‘What’s the roster going to be tomorrow?’ or ‘What’s the line-up going to be next game?’ With that mentality, you’re going to stick to your game plan and know your role.
“I know that as hard as it is to get (to the NHL), it’s going to be harder to stay.