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Inside the Flyers: Flyers' Hartnell: The player that keeps on giving

Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell, two years removed from scoring a career-high 37 goals, is not having his best season.

Scott Hartnell. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Scott Hartnell. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell, two years removed from scoring a career-high 37 goals, is not having his best season.

Off the ice, however, he is an all-star.

Fact is, there is no one on the Flyers - and perhaps in the entire NHL - who does more for kids than Hartnell. A self-deprecating sort, Hartnell didn't get angry a few years ago when Flyers fan Seth Hastings gently poked fun at him by starting a #HartnellDown hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag was in reference to Hartnell's habit of falling down on the ice. The good-natured Hartnell embraced the idea and it has created a cottage industry that includes #HartnellDown merchandise, a website that features a Down-O-Meter that tracks his falls, and a charitable foundation.

All to aid kids.

The money raised from the endeavors helps local charities, and it has sent numerous underprivileged children to a hockey camp in Minnesota.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus in South Philly. Only instead of red and white, he wears orange and black.

Hartnell and his sister, Kyla, took things a step further. They have co-written a rhyming children's book - Hartnelldown - that traces Hartnell's days from a young hockey player to an NHLer.

Just like he does on the ice, Hartnell falls down a lot in the book.

But he also keeps getting back up, and that's the message the Saskatchewan native and his sister are trying to ingrain in kids.

The final page of the book, which was illustrated by Sean Thompson, a friend of Hartnell's dad, shows the 31-year-old winger atop the Art Museum steps, his hands raised like Rocky, and the city's skyline in the distance. It is accompanied by these words: "Hope to one day win the Cup . . . hartnelldown . . . and get back up."

Last week, Hartnell read his book to young patients and their families at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. It was also shown to patients on all the hospital televisions.

Afterward, Hartnell - who has only six goals this season, but has played better since being dropped to the second line recently - gave books to the patients and took photos with them.

"You see what the kids and the families are going through, and you just want to do a little something to help them through it," Hartnell said.

During a question-and-answer period, a patient who was about 4 years old, had a serious inquiry.

"Is Sidney Crosby really a crybaby?" he asked.

Hartnell, who had his 500th career point in Monday's 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, couldn't contain his laughter.

"Absolutely," he said of the Pittsburgh Penguins star.

All proceeds from the book go to charity.

"I'm just so proud at how far the foundation has come," Hartnell said.

But he may not be as proud of the foundation as his sister is of him.

Kyla Hartnell, 40, a physical therapist who says her famous brother was "very cuddly" while growing up, is one of four siblings in her family to play hockey. Her other two brothers, Chad and Kevin, played in college, and she still plays in two leagues. Kyla gets emotional when talking about Scott, the youngest of the siblings. She gets so emotional that she needs to pause for 30 seconds before she can get the words out.

"He has fought back from injuries, concussions, being demoted in his ice time, having new linemates, new coaches, new organizations," she said. "He's incredibly focused professionally, and also with his family and his community, and just focused on being a kind person. He has the attitude that 'We have to give back,' and that's how the world moves. He realized one day that he has the power to do this."

Kyla Hartnell said her brother has "an amazing ability to make light of a heavy situation and let people's spirits rise."

He gets his resilience from his mother, Joy, who had a serious stroke about 12 year ago, around the time her son was breaking into the NHL.

"When someone young gets knocked down by a stroke, it's quite devastating. But my mom - I always describe her as our inspiration - she worked really hard to get back," said Kyla Hartnell, a British Columbia resident who will meet with her brother when the Flyers play in Vancouver on Monday. "She has no use of one arm, but she is able to walk short distances, and if you put her on an adult tricycle, she can go for miles and miles and miles. So she's found something she's passionate about and has worked hard to achieve that. The whole moral is to do something you're passionate about and don't let anything stand in your way."

In other words, keep getting up.

Like a certain left-winger-turned-children's-author.