"At that point, I had a family adviser and I thought hey, I think there's a chance and I got really excited," recalls Hathaway, who at the time had just finished grade 12 at Phillips Academy, a prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. "I was young and I thought that's the step, that's the path, that's how you get to the NHL. But when I didn't get drafted, that's when you learn it's not the be-all and end-all."
While guys ranked behind him like Micheal Ferland (ranked No. 146) and last year's Calder Trophy finalist Mark Stone (ranked No. 119) did get selected, going 133rd (round 5) and 178th (round 6) respectively, Hathaway was passed over.
"I was a little disappointed. You start imagining what it would be like, hearing your name called, it's definitely a dream for a kid to get drafted and I had that dream," Hathaway says. "But, it didn't happen and it just makes you work that much harder. There are a lot of guys, who get drafted and don't make the NHL and a lot that don't get drafted but do so I just wanted to be one of those guys."
Off to University He Went
Hathaway continued his pursuit of a hockey career as well as an education at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied Business Entrepreneurship and E-Commerce. In a lengthy and engaging chat at Flames development camp in July -- in which he did not participate on-ice as he was still recovering from May ankle surgery -- the personable 23-year-old told me it was halfway through his third season at Brown when that moment came and he realized he still had a legitimate chance to play pro hockey.
"I remember walking out of the locker room after a game one day and there's Frank Anzalone, a Calgary scout, waiting for me. I was like 'wow'," says Hathaway. "You always dream about it, you always want to be so close to grasp it. That's when it really hit me. That was a huge confidence boost. Confidence is huge in hockey and when you start seeing that, it becomes realistic. From that point, I saw Frank quite a few times. He'd stop by and talk to me after games."
Calgary invited Hathaway to development camp that summer but he declined, saying it was too far away. Plus, he ended up going to development camps that summer of 2013 for the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. They were on consecutive weeks and in hindsight, it was exhausting and not something he would recommend.
"Man, that was rough. It was exciting being my first experience, but like in Calgary, the camps were tough," says Hathaway. "But I had a great time, two unbelievable organizations, it really prepared myself going into my senior year. and then going into Calgary's camp last summer."
Real World Education
While hockey remained a passion, getting his education was huge for Hathaway and not just book smarts, but street smarts too.
The summer after his sophomore year, he and a buddy came up with a business plan to operate a lobster roll push cart in Providence. This would help them make money to pay for school and also get them some business experience.
"It was definitely a new experience. We had to buy a cart, we had to get all the licenses, we had to do a health inspection, get a fire inspection, do all the financials and all the taxes and everything. It was wild," Hathaway says with a chuckle.
First up was finding an old hot dog vendor cart.
"We bought this old, rickety thing that was probably 6-8 feet long and 2-3 feet wide and it had an old cast iron grill on it that we used to toast the buns."
The adventure was an eye-opening experience.
"You think we're going to make this much money and you start projecting crazy things, but then everything goes wrong," Hathaway says. "The first day, we ran out of lobster meat, the sign falls over, the drinks aren't cold enough, people don't like how you make the lobster roll and I've got one way to make it."
As co-founder, co-owner, and co-everything, he ran the business for two summers and learned a ton.
"Any school, any class, will only teach you so much," Hathaway says. "On the other hand, that real world aspect of running my own business was one of the most influential and probably one of the most useful things I've had in my schooling, and it wasn't even in the classroom."
Hard Work Translates to an NHL Deal
Hathaway says he gets his ambition and work ethic from his upbringing, where he was the youngest of five kids in a family in which his Dad always owned his own businesses.
"I don't want to say entrepreneurs are the hardest working people but for me, growing up as a child, my Dad was working the whole time," says Hathaway. "He was always around and involved in the family but his work ethic was something I always strive to compare myself too, even still still today as he runs his own lobster processing business. The guy gets up before the sun is up every day and he's back home after the sun goes down.
"Since I was young, I grew up in an atmosphere where my parents always stressed how important work ethic is. Work hard, be nice to your friends and remember that your family always loves you. That's something I heard every single day. Hard work is rewarded, it definitely is."
Sure enough, it was Hathaway's efforts in his first pro season at Adirondack -- 19 goals and 36 points -- that earned him his first NHL deal in April, signing a two-year entry level contract with the Flames.
"If you were to ask any of our coaches, we're all huge fans of his. The guy came in on an AHL contract and just worked. Every day, if we asked him to do something, the next day he made changes. He's a player that you want to have around your room," says Ryan Huska, coach at Adirondack. "If there's one guy that you know will go through a wall for his teammates, it's him. He's the type of person that you want to have around a team. Players of his caliber, you win with guys like that."
If you're not familiar with Hathaway's game, think north-south, not east-west.
"He's a hard-nosed up and down guy that knows exactly what he is, yet he does have some offensive ability there and he can play with some higher-end skilled guys," says Huska. "Maybe the greatest part is he knows what he is. He knows he has to put pucks in behind defencemen, he knows he has to be physical, he knows he has to get to the net and he's very good at holding himself accountable in those areas."
This September is Different
Hathaway is excited for the opportunity that awaits this fall and having a genuine shot at playing in the NHL.
"Last year coming to camp, it was different. I mean you have to fight for what you get no matter what deal you're on but when you're on an AHL deal, you can't play in the NHL. Now that I'm here, my next step is to make it to the NHL and that's just pushing myself. Whether I'm off the ice in the gym training or on the ice trying to win a battle, I'm pushing myself and challenging myself to get to that next step and goal."
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, the right-shooting right-wing certainly has the attributes to find a home on the Flames bottom six over the next couple of years. He brings qualities both on the ice and off with his maturity and attitude that would would fit nicely into the Flames 'never given, always earned' culture.
"I want to play in the NHL and this is the organization that I think I fit the mold well. I've heard that before too. I want to be a part of getting Calgary back to where they think they should be as an elite team in the league," says Hathaway. "It's kind of like when I was going to Brown. We weren't great but we wanted to get back to having Brown on top. They were in the Frozen Four in 1994 and every day my coach would tell us that he was on that team and I think it's the same here. They strive for excellence and they don't want anything else."
Path to the NHL is Closer Than Ever
Growing up in the small town of Kennebunkport, Maine, Hathaway had to travel a lot to play competitive hockey, often having to be driven to North Hampshire. After all, Maine is not exactly a hockey hotbed when it comes to producing NHL players.
But with highly-touted Flames goaltending prospect Jon Gillies also hailing from the United States' most north-eastern state and with hockey growing in Maine, perhaps that path is about to become a little bit more common, not that the path most traveled necessarily means much.
"Everyone has their different way to get to the NHL. Mine wasn't getting drafted and I think it has worked out for the best," Hathaway says.
The Flames hope that turns out to be the case and after a second summer spent training under Brian McDonough at Edge Performance Systems (EPS) in Foxborough, Massachusetts -- alongside the likes of Brian Boyle, Jimmy and Kevin Hayes and fellow Flames prospect Bill Arnold, we'll get a sense of how far along that path Hathaway has travelled when rookie camp gets underway in less than a week with the Young Stars tournament in Penticton.
"I take a lot of pride in my work ethic. I'm going to be one of those guys that's going to go battle and get the puck and try to control it. I'm going to block shots and I'm going to back-check and I like to chip in offensively," says Hathaway. "I'm also not afraid to hit somebody or go into the corner and battle with somebody. A no-fear type of attitude is how I go into games when I play my best."
Those are all qualities that could translate very well to the NHL. With Hathaway turning 24 in November, he's at the age where we're sure to find out soon whether they actually will.
One way or another -- hockey or business, you get the sense a successful career awaits him regardless.
By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.
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