Ever wonder how a hockey player starts off his career? If he even started playing hockey at the position he’s now known for? If I was a betting man, I would certainly have wagered on Carter Hart always being the guy to stand in the blue paint protecting a cage.
Thankfully, I’m not a betting man.
Until the age of nine, Carter Hart was a forward, just like his father. He grew up in Sherwood Park in Alberta. During his time playing minor hockey, it took only one event to change his career path.
“I remember in Novice, our goalie was sick or maybe he was hurt, and they were asking who wanted to play goalie, so I volunteered to fill in the position and I enjoyed it more than being a player.”
The pleasure of being a goalie paired with his admiration of Patrick Roy ultimately led Hart to stay on course.
Fast forward 11 years and the kid who just wanted to play a game between the pipes is now the first goalie to ever win the CHL Goaltender of the Year award twice, a three-time WHL Goalie of the Year award winner and a World Junior Gold Medalist. He also tied the CHL shutout record with 26.
“It’s a huge honor to win those awards. It’s crazy how it goes by so fast, I can’t believe I’m already taking the next step.” Hart said. “I had so much fun in Everett and I have to thank my amazing billet family and the Sutter’s for making Everett a home away from home.”
Throughout his junior career, Hart had the chance to represent his county not once, but twice. The stage for the World Juniors is massive, especially when the jersey you’re pulling over your head is one that has represented hockey dominance for a very long time.
“I didn’t know what to expect the first time around, I didn’t know on how high of a pedestal it truly was. But you never realize how big the World Juniors are in Canada until you play in the tournament.”
Fortune was not on Hart’s side during his first run. Despite making it to the Gold Medal Game, he and Team Canada fell to their U.S. rivals 5-4 in a shootout. He was thankful to have another chance to bring home the gold.
“The extra experience definitely helped the second time around. I knew what to expect.”
And that showed when Hart backstopped Team Canada to Gold in 2017-18, boasting an impressive 1.81 goals-against-average and .930 save percentage, numbers that were still considered sub-par when compared to his WHL statistics.
When asked about the feeling and where that moment laid in his young career, Hart did not hold back.
“Winning the World Juniors was the best moment of my life. When Steener [Tyler Steenbergen] scored, my whole body started shaking and I started getting chills. It was such a rush. I will never forget those guys. Having another opportunity to win it was incredible.”
It wasn’t all fun and games though. During the tournament, media outlets shone an undesired light on Hart’s pregame rituals, during which he would refuse to leave the ice until he was the last player off. The exposure eventually led to other teams using it as a tactic to get him off his game.
“We all have weird superstitions. Mine got unwanted attention from the media and even when I went back to the WHL, teams kept trying to rattle me by leaving players on the ice in warmups.”
Now that both the good and the bad are behind him, what happens next? Hart is regarded as one of the best goalie prospects in the NHL. A lot of scouts and analysts will tell you that goalies develop slower and in most cases, it’s true. Is this another one of those cases?
“My goal is to play in the NHL next year. If things don’t happen the way I want them to, I’m still in a great place in Lehigh Valley. But my goal is to go into training camp and win a job.”
The dedication level is admirable and it’s going to be exciting to see how things play out for Hart. He is very calm and composed on the ice, which is not a completely strange phenomenon for a handful of goalies around the league.
“I don’t compare myself to any goalie really, but I do like certain styles,” Hart said. “For me, Carey Price and Braden Holtby are up there since they are so calm in net. They are very good skaters and can track the puck well. When I was a kid I liked Patrick Roy a lot too.”
Hart is ready to put his junior career behind him and take his game to the next level. Whether that level is in Lehigh Valley with the Phantoms or in Philadelphia with the Flyers, there is reason to be optimistic in the City of Brotherly Love.
Photos courtesy of Kate Frese