ARLINGTON, V.A. — If Washington Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway wasn’t playing pro hockey, the 30-year-old would likely be a firefighter. And, when he’s not at the rink, one can usually find Hathaway at a fire station or volunteering with first responders.
It’s been a career-long passion for Hathaway, who had a major goal in mind when he put pen to paper to sign with the Capitals: to give back to the community and connect with D.C. in a way close to his heart.
Growing up in Maine, Hathaway’s grandparents told him stories about his great-grandfather and namesake, Garnet Mcelroy. Mcelroy was a firefighter in Winnipeg, and Hathaway grew up hearing stories about his great-grandfather’s service and courage while fighting fires without modern-day technology. Hathaway also received several of Mcelroy’s mementos, like his scarf and razor, that he still keeps with him to this day. From there, Hath’s Heroes was born.
“When I got to D.C., I had the opportunity with a four-year contract where it seemed like a time where I really wanted to take advantage of a city that welcomed me so quickly and really felt like home right off the start,” Hathaway said, adding, “What was behind [Hath’s Heroes] was the inspiration to want to give back, and then something that was close to home for me.
“I heard a lot of stories of [Garnet Mcelroy’s] bravery. Just to hear stories, and when it comes to D.C., you realize that those people putting themselves in danger every day to keep us safe do it willingly,” Hathaway explained. “And they know the dangers behind it… a lot of hard hours go into it. To be able to be certified, capable, willing, sacrificing their time with their family, sacrificing their own safety to be able to keep us safe day in and day out.”
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With help from the Washington Capitals and Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Hathaway launched “Hath’s Heroes” in 2019. Through his program, he has been able to support hundreds of first responders in the DMV. The Maine native not only gives tickets to first responders and holds meet and greets and locker room tours, but he also visits local fire stations during the regular season. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hathaway and SuperFd Sports Performance and Nutrition provided 3,962 meals to first responders and families while also raising $22,787 with fans. Hathaway also teamed up with Power Up to provide snacks for first responders.
The foundation also collaborates with Mindful Junkie to provide mindfulness training to D.C. area first responders. The Tactical Brain Training through the program aids firefighters and first responders with handling work-based trauma, and Mindful Junkie as a whole gives first responders assistance when it comes to dealing with stress and trauma while also promoting focus, concentration and mindfulness. Hath’s Heroes has donated $15,125, and the trainings have served 410 DMV-based first responders.
Hathaway’s desire to give back started back when he was a rookie with the Calgary Flames. He looked up to Michael Backlund and Mark Giordano, who took the time to volunteer in Calgary while also balancing their families and careers. After that, No. 21 wanted to help, too.
“I got to play with a lot of great hockey players that did a lot in the community… Every year I was there, they were guys that really inspired other guys to do more,” Hathaway said. “They had families of their own and hockey to do that, but they were really community-first and they gave back to the fans a lot.”
This season, Hathaway is doing even more to expand “Hath’s Heroes.” He is launching a new beer to further raise funds for Hath’s Heroes. He is holding the launch party on Oct. 3 at Other Half Brewing in Ivy City 7-9 p.m. Hathaway is also holding a raffle and donating to raise funds and promote the cause.
Over the course of his tenure in D.C., Hathaway has become a fan favorite and loved locker room presence. He is known for his hard-hitting and strong two-way game while also complementing Nic Dowd on the powerhouse fourth line. However, for the 6-3, 208-pound winger, his biggest impact has been through volunteering. Since joining the Capitals, Hathaway has been the team’s annual King Clancy nominee. He said the experience with “Hath’s Heroes” has also made him a better person both on and off the ice.
“They’re the same people that live on your street or live right around the corner, take their kids to sports. They have their family, even sometimes another job and then volunteering. It’s really incredible, and that was one thing that I had the opportunity to give back,” Hathaway said. “We have the platform to do it and support from the Capitals. That’s why we started Hath’s Heroes. And like you said, it’s grown. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve met a lot of amazing people. It’s continued to grow and kind of pivot throughout the years.”