By Marjorie Roden, Daily Herald Contributor
Former Prince Albert Raiders captain Scott Hartnell has been playing professional hockey ever since he made the jump from the Western Hockey League club to the NHL’s Nashville Predators for the 2000-01 season.
Nashville drafted Hartnell in the first round, 6th overall in 2000 NHL Entry Draft held in Calgary; since then, the hard-hitting forward has been playing solidly.
He has spent most of his career in the NHL with the exception of one season in Norway during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, where he played for the Valerengens.
Except for that, he has played for the Philadelphia Flyers for seven seasons, the Columbus Blue Jackets for three, and is now back with the Nashville Predators, where his NHL career began 17 years ago.
Marjorie Roden had a chance to chat with him before the Predators very tight game against the Winnipeg Jets, which saw the Predators win 6-5 after Ryan Hartman score the game-winning goal at the 19:00 mark of the third period.
The win put the Predators at the top of the Central Division, two points above the Jets who still have a game at hand.
The following is an edited version of their conversation.
MR: You’re back with the Predators now, how did that come about?
SH: I got bought out with my contract in Columbus on June 29, and then I was a free agent right away. There were a few teams interested right off the bat, but Nashville was a team I was looking to go to; it was right at the top of the list. It’s proved to be a great plan. We’ve had a great season thus far, and we’re looking for hopefully another deep playoff run and hopefully winning the Stanley Cup.
MR: And how has the season been going this year?
SH: It’s been awesome. It’s just a great team, we’ve got a great bunch of guys, a lot of skill, a lot of grit, and it’s just really exciting to be back in Nashville after being away for ten years. The city’s changed a lot, but the team is definitely just fun. It’s fun to be at the rink every day.
MR: I know this is from a few years back, but when you were drafted, there was a huge cheer in the room when your name was called. Did you realize how popular you were in western Canada?
SH: Well, I was born in Regina, grew up in Eston, Sask., and then moved to Lloydminster, the Alberta side of it, but definitely a lot of relatives were there. Maybe you just heard the aunties, cousins, and stuff who were there that day.
But I do remember that day like it was yesterday, so it seems like forever ago now, but it’s definitely been an awesome ride just how everything has gone so far.
MR: So, what are you thinking of for the future, I don’t just mean this game, I mean for the rest of the season.
SH: Well, hopefully our team stays healthy, hopefully we play at a high level, like we have been doing, battling and winning games.
As far as a future in hockey, I’d love to play another year right now. My body feels great, I feel good out there. Who knows what will happen in that department, but if it’s that time to be retired and hang them up, I’ve definitely had a great life so far and I just love this game of hockey.
MR: What was the best thing you learned in P.A.?
SH: It was part of the growing process. I think as a person, as a young player. Coach (Kevin) McClelland, when he was there, was amazing for me, to learn from a guy that played so many years in the NHL and won Stanley Cups. He was big in my development as a player on and off the ice. It just was an amazing time in my childhood.