Fan's Twitter Insult Of Philly Flyer Leads To #HartnellDown Foundation

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The genesis of the #HartnellDown Foundation was a slight, a way to publicly poke fun of a NHL player who couldn't go even a period without having to pick himself up off the cold, hard ice.

It was game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup final between the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks when the Twitter hashtag hartnelldown was born. In the third period, with mere minutes left in regulation, Flyers winger Scott Hartnell scored to tie the game at 3-3. It was at that precise moment when long-time Flyers' fan Seth Hastings had seen enough. On the play, Hartnell could be found yet again prone on the ice.

And here's the thing: It wasn't the first such instance that June evening. Hartnell also opened the Flyers' scoring, but only after first scrambling back to his skates.

“I just remember thinking, 'Next season, I'm going to have to keep track of how many times this guy falls,' ” Hastings tells Samaritanmag.com. “It's as simple as that. It really just began with a cult following on Twitter, but slowly it started getting bigger and bigger as last season wore on.”

True enough. But it wasn't until mid-November of this season did #hartnelldown start to take on a life of its own. You see, that's when Hartnell joined the Twitter revolution. Rather than take offence however, the fun-loving @Hartsy19 chose to embrace the new catch phrase. Within days, he made his first tweet containing the hashtag.

And he didn't stop there.

“It was funny, I was laying in bed and it was after one of their games and I got a direct message and it was from Scott Hartnell,” Hastings says. “I totally had a fan-boy moment and freaked out, like, 'Oh my crap, Scott Hartnell found out I started #hartnelldown.' A few days later his agent got in touch with me and asked if I'd mind if they borrowed my idea to start selling t-shirts, hats, hoodies and some other ideas they had in the works with the money going to charity.”

Hartnelldown.com was up and operational in mid-December with Hastings's blessing. The site includes a large Hartnell Down-O-Meter – which as of late February currently sits at 223 for the 2011-12 season — and offers #hartnelldown merchandise, with all proceeds going to the #HartnellDown Foundation. Formed in January, its mandate is to provide financial support to charities that deal with three things that are very important to Hartnell — hockey, children and his hometown of Lloydminster, Sask./Alta.

The foundation's first initiative focuses on two of those things. Hartnell will provide between five and 10 all-expenses paid scholarships for disadvantaged Philadelphia youths to attend the highly respected Minnesota Hockey Camp this summer.

“And to think, all this came out of a spoof on my reckless style of play,” Hartnell tells Samaritanmag.com. “It's actually been unbelievable. I never would have imagined it would be this big already and it's only been a few months. People are just loving it, I think because they know every penny is going to a good cause, but still it's blowing my mind.”

More than $2,500 t-shirts, 600 toques and 300 lady's long-sleeve t's have already been gobbled up by fans, including those living as far away as England, Australia and Hong Kong. Of course, it didn't hurt sales that Hartnell was named as a late addition to the NHL's All-Star Game in Ottawa in late January.

No fool, Hartnell took advantage of every opportunity he could that weekend to pump the tires of his new cause. He wore a #hartnelldown toque to the skills competition and tossed about 50 baseball caps into the stands during TV timeouts. He then went on to pledge $1,000 to his foundation for every time he fell during the game. Sure, it cost him a cool $4,000, but everyone was talking about it. The added exposure resulted in more than 600 orders over the three-day event. You can't buy that type of advertising.

And to think, when the first shipment of t-shirts arrived, Hartnell and his agent, Dean Grillo, were actually worried what they would do with them all.

“I can remember the first 1,000 t-shirts showing up at my house, I mean we had t-shirts everywhere, and at that point we just didn't know how well it would be received,” Grillo tells Samaritanmag.com. “I called Scott, and he said 'Well, I'll give 200 away at my golf tournament, another 50 away to friends and family and 100 for the hockey school,' so now we're down to 650. Instead, within a matter of minutes of the website going live we sold like 200. Now we've reordered four times.

“I mean, we have hats on three-weeks back-order. It's just been a monumental thing for a guy who just ran with it.”

Charity is nothing new to Hartnell, the youngest of four siblings and the son of school teachers. He is one of the more generous Flyers when it comes to donating his time to visit sick children along with other team functions. He was also named the Chairman of the Beard for the NHLPA's annual Beard-A-Thon, which encourages fans to collect pledges for growing facial hair during the playoffs. Money raised by the Beard-A-Thon goes to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a cause near-and-dear to Hartnell's heart. His mom had a stroke during his rookie NHL season, 10 years ago now.

Oh yeah, and last year, he and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur co-hosted their inaugural golf tournament in Lloydminster. More than $200,000 was raised for the city's Regional Health Authority along with other local causes.

Still, nothing holds the promise of the #HartnellDown Foundation.

“Who knew?” says Hartnell. “I just have to give a lot of credit to Seth for being so good about everything. This was his baby and we couldn't have done any of this without first the idea and then his blessing and support.”

Hastings was one of the first to receive a #hartnelldown t-shirt, given to him personally by Hartnell after a game in December.

Speaking of which, the 26-year-old cook from Middletown, PA., is responsible for designing the latest t-shirt for sale. On the front is three caricatures of Hartnell, each in a different pose, with the words "HartTrick #HartnellDown" beneath them. On the back it reads “It's a #hartnelldown, it's a goal, it's a fight and it's freakin' awesome! #boom”

“I'm still in shock – it's just wild – I would never have believed something is now helping send kids from Philadelphia to hockey camps and other things,” says Hastings. “I just can't be more thrilled that this whole thing is affecting so many people in a positive way. It just goes to show the quality of person Scott is, to not only ask me to use the phrase, but make me feel involved in some small way.”

CLICK HERE TO READ PART 2 OF THIS STORY, A Q&A WITH SCOTT HARTNELL ABOUT HIS UPBRINGING AND CHARITY WORK.

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Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.