Bob Hartley: ‘I will match anyone’s intensity’
Herald sits down for wide-ranging interview with Calgary Flames head coach
Over the summer, Sven Baertschi launched a Reconnaissance mission, of sorts, in his native Switzerland.
The objective: to gather any and all intelligence related to incoming Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley.
After all, best to learn everything possible about the new boss before actually meeting him in the flesh.
“I talked to the guys in Zurich — a lot of the guys on Bob’s old team,” Baertschi said last week during Abbotsford Heat training camp. “I have a lot of good friends, and they told me he wants the best out of you every single day.”
In other words, Hartley is a demanding sort with little patience for anything less than maximum effort.
Day in and day out.
“I think it’s good that way,” said Baertschi, the No. 1 prospect in the organization. “You’ve got to keep improving as hockey player.”
Tales of Hartley’s no-nonsense style began to swirl in these parts from the moment the 52–year-old accepted the job last spring as head coach of the Calgary Flames.
The entire organization — heck, the entire National Hockey League — is in a holding pattern while the owners and the players attempt to hammer out their differences on labour matters.
The wait means more anticipation, more whispering, about what the players can expect when the puck finally drops for the 2012/13 NHL season.
Abbotsford Heat defenceman Steve McCarthy — a Hartley disciple from both the Zurich Lions and, back in the day, Atlanta Thrashers — is the only player with firsthand knowledge of what to expect from the new Calgary bench boss.
“He’s very demanding,” said McCarthy, 31. “He wants attention to detail.”
At the news conference to announce his hiring in Calgary, Hartley provided some insight into his demand for attention to detail by talking about his years in a pulp and paper mill.
On a quiet afternoon during Heat camp, Hartley shed even more light on his life — and philosophies — in a wide-ranging interview at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sport Centre.
Locked-out Calgary Flames players best take note.
“It’s all about creating a championship mentality,” said Hartley, who has won the Calder Cup, Stanley Cup and, most recently, a Swiss League championship. “It’s not about pleasing who I am or what I want. It’s about the final result. It’s about creating expectations, creating demands and creating an identity.
“It’s not about me. I have zero ego. It’s about us.”
The bilingual Hartley grew up on in the mill town of Hawkesbury, Ont. near the Quebec border.
“I had some great coaches in my little hometown,” he said. “I played hockey for an Ontario Provincial Police officer, and he was tough. At 6 o’clock, we would be on the ice, and we had to bring our homework and we had to bring our tests. If the schooling or the off-ice stuff was not good enough — or if we would be impolite with someone and he would see it — we would sit on the bench. And in those days, those rinks were pretty cold. You didn’t want to sit and freeze your toes on the bench.
“You wanted to be on the ice. Win or lose — whether the score was 10-0 or 1-1, we had to go hard. There was no half-speed with him.”
Officer Don Prentice’s legacy survives to this day on any team coached by Bob Hartley.
The same can be said for the lessons handed down by four generations of Hartley men who worked at the pulp and paper mill in Hawkesbury.
At 17, Hartley lost his dad — a foreman at the plant — to a heart attack.
“My dad taught me to never ask from people anything you’re not willing to do yourself,” he said. “Yes, I demand lots of hard work from the guys. But at the same time, I provide hard work. I will not sit in my office when the guys are in the gym. I will match anyone’s intensity.
“If you’re not prepared to work, you don’t have a chance.”
After his father’s death, Hartley turned down the chance to attend Ottawa University to stay home with his mother and sister and work at the mill.
Four years later, Hartley found work at a windshield plant.
“I still have my lunch pail,” said Hartley, who coached the junior ‘A’ team in Hawkesbury before moving to Laval, of the QMJHL. “Maybe I threw them away, but I think I still have one pair of boots with the toe caps.
“Those eight years in the factory, that was great schooling for me. I learned some very valuable, key lessons that I use a lot on my teams.”
So if Hartley seems like a demanding sort, well, he comes by it honestly.
“When you play for Bob, you have to come with your work boots every day,” McCarthy said. “For players who have that mentality, they’ll be successful.
“You need to come prepared every day and be a pro. If you pay attention to detail, you’ll be successful. If you don’t want do that, well that’s when obviously you’re going to run into problems.”
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