HARTY HEADING FOR FRANCE
BY BILL HUNT
19 JUNE 2012
Jonathan Harty is in French Immersion again.
The former University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds defenceman hasn’t taken French classes since Grade 11. But he’ll be immersed again in August when he joins the Ducs d’Angers of France’s Ligue Magnus, the top league in the country.
Harty signed on as the team’s fifth import, recruited by head coach Jay Varady, the associate head coach with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, where Harty played his junior hockey before joining UNB.
Harty joined the Kalamazoo K-Wings of the ECHL following the completion of his season with UNB — he had three fights in two late regular-season games — but was squeezed out of the lineup for the K-Wings’ playoff run. He’s happy to go to Angers, if you will.
“I trust the coach there ... I’m really excited to go play with him,” said Harty, who will also “make a little bit of money, pay off all my school debt and have a little bit of money to live. Plus, I’ll be able to see Europe. And it’s easier to move up the ranks over there.”
The Ducs play in a league which, to Harty’s understanding, is roughly the calibre of the ECHL, maybe a little higher, he said. Teams play a 26-game regular-season schedule, supplemented by two league tournaments over the course of the season. Another former UNB defenceman, Justin Dacosta, played a pair of games with Chamonix in the same league.
It will be a bit of a transition for the hard-hitting Harty to play on Olympic-sized ice surfaces in Europe, but he has some experience, playing a handful of games in Wolfville, N.S., against the Acadia Axemen over his UNB career.
Harty first considered the move more than a year ago. The Varsity Reds had just wrapped up the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship on home ice — the second of Harty’s career — and he had earned his bachelor of business administration. However, he elected to return to campus to pursue his master’s degree, and another Canadian title on home ice.
He went 1-for-2. He’s finishing up the practical portion of his MBA in Ottawa, working in sales for the Ottawa Senators. His CIS season ended a little earlier than anticipated when the Western Mustangs of London, Ont. upset the powerhouse V-Reds in the Saturday afternoon semifinal of the tourney. The Mustangs went on to lose the final to the McGill Redmen on the Sunday night.
It did little to mar Harty’s fine season on the UNB blueline though. He was named the team’s top defenceman, the school’s male athlete of the year, a first team AUS all-star and second-team all-Canadian, as well as to the tournament all-star team at the CIS championship tournament.
Harty got a brief taste of pro with Kalamazoo — always among the most robust of the V-Reds’ blueliners, he fought three times — and then appeared in a pair of playoff games for the K-Wings, who were eliminated in the Eastern Conference final by the eventual Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades.
“It could have gone a little better,” he said. “I could have got some ice time and could have proved myself. But I still gained a positive experience from being there and practising with the players and working out, and finding out what the pro life is actually like.”
Harty’s going to France with an open mind. He doesn’t know any of the other four imports on the team roster, speaks a little French, but is excited for the experience.
“Right now, I’m on a one-year program” he said. “I’ll go over there, pay off some debt and see where I am at the end of the season. If I have a really good season and I enjoy myself, maybe I’ll try to move up to a higher level over there. If the AHL comes knocking and there’s an opportunity to come back and play in the AHL, I’d take that under consideration.”
The Olympic-sized ice surfaces won’t deter Harty.
“I think the rules are a little more strict on the hitting,” said the 5-foot-11, 215 pounder who laid many a big open ice hit on AUS forwards over his career.
“I’m going to play my game, and if I start taking too many penalties, I’ll have to adjust accordingly,” he said. “But I am who I am, and I play how I play.”
He’ll look back fondly on his UNB years — four seasons, during which he totaled 20 goals and 52 assists and 263 PIM in 98 regular season games.
“I hadn’t been back home to New Brunswick in three or four years when I came back home,” said the 24-year-old who wore the number 40 for the last couple of years of his career in tribute to his Oromocto roots — the town of four O’s.
“So it was good to get back and get back in touch with all my friends and make new friends. School-wise, I could get injured my first game in France and have my MBA to fall back on. I’m set career-wise. Hockey-wise, I played with the best Canadian university hockey team and won two national championships, and last year, I came back and got some personal recognition. It really furthered me in all three aspects of life...personally, career-wise and hockey-wise.”