Rob Hartshorn has plenty of stories to tell. Most of them center around hockey, and rightfully so.
In 2009, when the U.S. Women’s National Team set up camp at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, to prepare for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games, Hartshorn and his Lumberjacks teammates in the Minnesota Wild Adult Hockey League got to scrimmage the national teamers a number of times. It was all business for Hartshorn.
“They dropped the puck and it goes into the corner and I skate into the corner. I beat the woman that’s chasing me,” Hartshorn recalled. “And all of a sudden, I was face first into the boards, and I’m lying on the ground. I look up, and there’s this young woman that’s about 18. She looks down at me and she goes, ‘I’m sorry, sir.’ And she skates away. I’m going, ‘Sir? God, I’m getting old.’”
Hartshorn might be getting a little older. However, he isn’t slowing down too much on the ice.
Just five years ago, Hartshorn was playing in three to four adult hockey leagues weekly and skating five to six nights a week. Some nights after his team would play, he’d stick around the rink and get asked to skate for any team that might be short a player. It wasn’t uncommon for Hartshorn to play three straight games on a weeknight and then get up for work the next morning.
“With all the different nights, we’d play with different groups of guys, different leagues,” said Hartshorn, who retired last year after running a satellite TV company. “I couldn’t get enough hockey.”
Now at 63, Hartshorn has taken his foot off the gas. Well, kind of. He’s only going to be playing three nights a week when leagues start up in the fall.
“He searches it out, too,” said Pete Carlson, who is the operations and programs director at the National Sports Center. “He’ll go find a game whatever town he’s in.”
Hartshorn — known as “Hartsy” by all his hockey buddies — has been playing adult hockey for 45 years. For a good 40 of those, he has been his team’s captain. Hartshorn’s the one who gets ice rented, handles inquiries about league registration, gets the team signed up for tournaments and figures out how much everything is going to cost for the players.
Carlson has watched with amazement what Hartshorn has done for the last 22 years for his Lumberjacks team as well as the hockey community at the Super Rink at the National Sports Center. So, when nominations were sought by USA Hockey for the Adult Player of the Year, presented by Labatt Blue, Carlson was quick to send in his friend’s name. Low and behold, Hartshorn won the award.
“People say thank you to him, [but] probably not enough,” Carlson said. “They’re always like, ‘Thanks, Hartsy. Thanks for putting this together.’ And he’s always, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And I have noticed what he does needs more of a thank you and a little more recognition amongst his peers. I’ll be the first to say, he’s not going to put that award in the closet. He’s going to have it at the parking lot, in the locker room and he’ll tell everybody about it because that’s just kind of how he is, too.”
When Hartshorn received a phone call saying he had won the prestigious award, he was flabbergasted.
“It’s crazy,” Hartshorn said. “I have so many friends in hockey, I can hardly wait for them to find out. Anybody and everybody, they’re going to go, ‘No way. You won that award? Not a chance.’”
Hartshorn’s sense of humor is second to none. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy, and hockey is his driving force.
Why does Hartshorn like hockey so much?
“Two things: It’s a great workout and you don’t even know it,” Hartshorn said. “You’re playing the game and you’re going as hard as you can, and you get done and you’re soaking wet. You don’t even feel like you worked out. The second part is all the cool people you meet. I’ve got a thousand friends from hockey — that’s what I love the most.”
Hartshorn started playing hockey in 1962 when he was 5, skating in the Maplewood (Minnesota) Athletic Association. He played high school hockey at North St. Paul and upon graduation, he quickly signed up for adult league.
After years of playing in leagues around the metro areas of Minnesota and St. Paul, Hartshorn found a permanent home rink in 1998 when the Schwan Super Rink was built. That’s when Hartshorn and Carlson — who runs the rink — met. Hartshorn organized the Lumberjacks, a highly successful team.
“He was both a customer and an opponent because I played on a different team,” Carlson said. “As a customer, I had to be nice to him, but man, I did not like the Lumberjacks or even Hartsy. Our two teams battled for five years. In those five years, and I am serious, we did not like each other.”
But when Hartshorn bought a round of beers at the rink bar one night for Carlson and his friends, it was the start of a strong bond.
Hartshorn has been the ringleader of the Lumberjacks for 23 years.
“We were actually pretty good,” Hartshorn said. “We won a lot of championships around the country.”
During one stretch, Hartshorn said the Lumberjacks went undefeated and won six straight years in a row. Hartshorn has been playing with some of his Lumberjacks teammates for a quarter century.
“They were 19 when I picked them up and I was probably 35,” Hartshorn said. “Now I look at them and they’re kind of old. I’m thinking, if they’re getting 50 and I’m 63, I must really be getting old.”
Hartshorn also plays in a Sunday league at the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine and runs organized pick-up games with a group of 20 players called “Hartsy Hockey” on Wednesdays during the summer. As soon as games have wrapped up for “Hartsy Hockey,” the guys head out to the parking lot at the Super Rink to barbecue and have some cold beverages.
“He’s a social guy,” Carlson said. “He likes organizing things. He likes putting people together. I think hockey is the reason you get together, but I think he likes to have a beer and grill some hot dogs in the parking lot afterward just as much as he does playing the game.”
And Hartshorn believes he still has many years left to play hockey. He recently skated against a team that had an 86-year-old player. That inspired him.
“I said, ‘OK. I’ve got something to shoot for,’” Hartshorn joked.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.