He’s a man of many hats.
There’s the one Chad Harden wears as the Hitmen’s Alberta scout.
Then there’s the cowboy hat the 47-year-old wears as a professional chuckwagon driver, taking part once again in the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth this Stampede.
“Our team started really good but then we mellowed out a bit so we are trying to get back to our peak level,” said Harden of his season leading up the Rangeland Derby. “During Ponoka we got a little hotter again so we are hoping they’re back on their way up. We’re looking to have a few key pieces in the lineup that’ll spark us to get going again.”
You’ll often hear Harden make hockey references when he talks to others about chuckwagon racing.
According to him, the two sports have a lot in common.
“The biggest thing that is similar is strategy,” he said. “It’s similar to when you are developing a team. You are developing a team from the top to the bottom to make everything work. To do that, you have to have good people around you and enjoy it. When people have fun, you have fun and the horses feel better.
“Our team has a lot of fun – some people will say that we’re having too much fun. But if you aren’t having fun in any sport, your horses and players suffer and sooner or later your franchise suffers. We live on having fun and trying to succeed.”
For Harden, the scouting never truly stops for him, whether it’s scouting players or horses.
“I’m a sports guy. I have three kids in hockey and I’m at the rink a lot and enjoy the part of meeting people and looking at things and seeing what’s going to work and what’s not going to work,” he said. “It’s like when you go buy a horse at the race track and you see one that’s a good looking horse but he needs to be a good chuckwagon horse. I don’t care how good he was on the racetrack anymore because I need him to be a great chuckwagon horse to be successful.
“It’s just like going to the Bantam Draft. Just because he’s a good Bantam player, is he going to be a great WHL kid? Realistically I’m drafting a kid for the WHL right now. Do I want to draft for the Flames? Of course, but right now I have to help pick the players that are good for the WHL.”
With Stampede drawing to a close in a few days, Harden and his crew will look to make a final push to compete in the big Sunday final and replicate the success he had when he walked away as the winner of the 2009 Rangeland Derby.
“You always want to be at the top of the league and it’s the same thing at the Calgary Stampede,” he said. “You want to peak and stay at the top. The problem is that you get to the Stampede and it’s not at the end of the year.
“You don’t have another month to develop so you better be hot in the middle of the year because the Cup is given out right now.”