In his eight-year NHL career, Garnet Hathaway has gone from being a newcomer to the league to right around the average age of his current team’s roster. Entering his ninth season and having signed with the Flyers at the start of free agency, that will change this upcoming season.

With the Flyers entering a rebuild, Hathaway will be one of the veterans on this roster. He will get an opportunity to be a leader for a group of young players looking to grow. It’s an opportunity Hathaway is embracing.

“I’ve been really fortunate to play with a lot of successful guys in this league – guys who have won Stanley Cups and awesome leaders. I’ve been on older teams,” Hathaway said. “I think I’ve been just maybe above the average age of almost every team I’ve been on, and now I’m on the other side of the spectrum. I’m one of the older guys, but I’d love to say still in my prime too. I’ve tried to pick up lots of things from the players I’ve been able to play with and find out what it takes to be successful, what it takes to get a group to pull together to get where they want to be. I’m excited to take that step into that position.”

The drive to improve and get back to the competitive nature the Flyers once had is another reason Hathaway was drawn to the Flyers. He recalled the tough matchups he’s had against the Flyers in the past, most recently from his time with the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, and noted that is where the team wants to be again.

“This organization has been really tough to play against my entire career,” Hathaway said. “They want to get back to that position where they’re really difficult to play against and build a more competitive team. That’s something I take a lot of pride in. I’m super excited to get that opportunity, especially in this organization, to get back to where they want to be."

“It’s an organization that really wants to improve, has that mindset right now that wants to continue to get better and a lot more competitive than they were last year. That’s exciting with a group that is willing to put in the work to do that.”

As one of the newcomers on the team, that also means a first experience playing under head coach John Tortorella. Hathaway talked to several players who had previously played for Tortorella and with the Flyers to get some expectations of the city of Philadelphia and the organization as a whole.

“I reached out to a few guys who had played here, a few guys who had played under Torts, and tried to get more of a gauge of how they liked every part of it – the city, the organization, the training facility, everything. I heard unbelievable things,” Hathaway said, “and that goes for the coaching staff up to management and how everyone was treated. That was really exciting to hear.”

And what has he heard specifically about playing for Tortorella?

“A very honest coach. Not someone who is going to sugarcoat things, but is going to demand the best out of you, effort-wise too,” Hathaway said. “I think that’s going to go hand-in-hand with being a competitive team and getting to this process where every game you want to build throughout the season. I heard get ready for camp, cause there’s not another one like it, but once you put that effort in, you have that willingness to work hard to get to that goal that you achieve within that room, it makes it all worth it.”

Hathaway joins a cast of veteran players that includes acquisitions like Sean Walker and Marc Staal, as well as a few returning players with the Flyers that will provide that presence as well. For a player whose style fits right in with the fabric of the organization, Hathaway could quickly become a player the fans and organization embrace. Hathaway already feels that from the Flyers and their interest in him.

“Feeling wanted, feeling like there was a lot of interest and then hearing all the positive things about the organization,” Hathaway said, “that just made me even more excited.”

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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