Ryan Hartman is many things to the Minnesota Wild: a physical, grinding forward; a 34-goal scorer last season; a favorite among fans, to the point where they raised money to help him pay an NHL fine; and according to his father Craig, the same "pain in the ass he was when he was 5 years old."
The summation of those attributes: That Ryan Hartman is a "glue guy." One of those guys who binds things together on and off the ice for a team. One of those players whose presence is celebrated and whose absence is lamented.
"I think he's got a lot of that. It's a tight-knit group and Hartsy's one of the reasons for that. The players gravitate towards him," Wild GM Bill Guerin told me, confirming Hartman's glue guy status. "You know, I think Ryan's got a good balance to his life. He plays hard. He works hard. He likes to have a good time. He's not afraid to take the guys out for a couple of beers. I love that. He keeps the team together."
My colleague Kevin Weekes once defined a glue guy like this: "Glue guys are the players who aren't necessarily superstars, but are the veterans who can keep a team together by doing the little things that go unnoticed. There isn't a more valuable guy you can have on your team than a glue guy who can still get it done on the ice."
The glue guys typically share some attributes, which Hartman embodies: