VOORHEES, N.J. — Regardless of his playing status, it’s easy to gravitate to the Yale-educated Alex Lyon with his insightful answers and his introspection on all things hockey. Following his call-up from Lehigh Valley, Lyon provided some keen observations on what he’s seen from goaltending prospect Carter Hart, who struggled in his initiation to pro hockey.
“You’ve got to learn it for yourself, that’s the key,” Lyon said Friday from the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “I don’t try and get in his ear. He’s a great goalie. From my end, the only thing I try to let him know is that it’s going to be hard, and there’s going to be days when you don’t practice or get your gear on, but you have to and you have to make the most of it.
"You can’t feel sorry for yourself even when you want to. That’s what I try and let him know. Just prepare right now for the fact that it’s going to be extremely difficult, even if you’re the most highly touted second-rounder or whatever he may be."
Lyon took a different route to pro hockey, spending two years in the USHL in Omaha, Nebraska, before enrolling at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he spent three more years. When he signed with the Phantoms, Lyon was 23. Hart, on the other hand, is just three months removed from his 20th birthday and still adjusting to independent living in a city 2,820 miles away from where he came from.
“It just takes time. I don’t know how else to put it than that. It’s so difficult,” Lyon said. “If you think he was living with somebody who cooked him all his meals and didn’t have to pay rent, didn’t worry about taking out his garbage at night. You come home and your fridge is stocked. All of a sudden your whole world gets turned upside down. He was the most important player in that franchise (Everett Silvertips) for four years, and then everything is totally different.”
Compounding the myriad of changes is that Hart is now cashing big paychecks in the first year of his entry-level deal that pays him roughly $750,000 bi-weekly over the course of a six-month season after receiving a mere monthly allowance at the junior level.
“You get a pay check every two weeks,” Lyon said. “It’s pretty easy to get high on life when you start making money. I’ve fallen into that trap so many times. I still fall into it.”
But financial matters don’t define greatness, and with that, Hart is forced to prove himself all over again to a group of coaches and teammates who have the same NHL aspirations as he does.
“You get to professional hockey and he’s just another commoner,” Lyon said. “Obviously, he’s a very good goalie. It’s just so different and it’s easy to look at it in terms of your glove isn't quite as sharp or your squareness isn’t quite as sharp. Maybe his long-distance girlfriend just broke up with him. I don’t know, but that’s what it is and that stuff affects your play. It does. And to think that you can just erase that when you get to the rink is just crazy. I think that’s one thing that gets overlooked is you have to try and adjust to that.
"It’s just patience. He’s going to be fine.”
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