By Cliff Mehrtens
The Charlotte Observer
He calls his teammates “kids.” He calls his coach “Don.”
Mike Hartman means no disrespect in either case. He’s thrilled to join the Charlotte Checkers for the third time.
Hartman, 36, a former NHL player whose previous stints were shortened by injury, rejoined the Checkers last week for its push for the East Coast Hockey League playoffs.
He hadn’t played in two years.
He’s the oldest Checkers player by six years. Most of his teammates are in their early 20s.
But they’re smart to listen. Hartman played nine NHL seasons and was on the New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup in 1994.
“I don’t care if I score any points,” Hartman said. “I just try to do the little things right. I know how to play the game. People say `You had a career in the NHL,’ and I tell them I was an average player. I had to do the little things or I wouldn’t have a job.”
Hartman has been a spark during Charlotte’s 11-1-1 streak heading into today’s 7:30 p.m. game against Atlantic City at Cricket Arena. In four games, he has a goal, three assists and a fight.
He came out of a one-year retirement for the 2000-01 season. It ended after 16 games, and Hartman had stomach surgery.