BostonBruins.com - Dougie Hamilton has been a Boston Bruin for barely a year.
Since arriving on January 12, 2013, the defenseman has played in just over 50 NHL games and helped the Black & Gold reach their second Stanley Cup Final in three years after being drafted ninth overall in 2011. The 20-year-old Toronto area native has had to mature quickly, but surrounded by veterans like Zdeno Chara, he has been eager to learn every step of the way.
Now in his second season, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound blueliner has eight goals (and 20 points) through his first 53 NHL games, with half of them coming on the power play, an area where he gets to utilize one of his best assets - his offensive intellect.
He came into the season fresh, after a year that had included a slate of close to 90 games with the Bruins, Ontario Hockey League's Niagara Ice Dogs and Team Canada. He was stronger and quicker, and put more emphasis on his stickhandling and skating.
"I love being at the rink," says the self-proclaimed 'rink boy,' who enjoys hanging around the arena, with his hockey sticks not too far from his grasp.
"He jumps into plays, he has good vision, he makes good passes, makes good decisions up front. So I think that’s been one of his strengths," Head Coach Claude Julien has said of Hamilton.
The offensive confidence has always been there, and continues to grow.
It's the defensive progress that the young blueliner focuses on the most, and the growing pains that come along with it aren't always easy. Mistakes come as a result, and while his coach will constantly preach patience to the media, it doesn't change that fact that the learning curve has to take place in the limelight.
The key to dealing with that process? "Make sure that you're confident in yourself, and it doesn't really matter what people say."
Since Hamilton has arrived, he's had the benefit of his locker room stall situated right near Chara (who, by the way, entered the league when Dougie was four-years-old) and learning from the Captain on and off the ice.
Zee's seen a maturation from the young defenseman, who he made a point to never label a "rookie" in his early days as a Bruin.
"For a young guy, he made some big strides forward as far as being more mature and behaving more as a man instead of a boy," the Captain said. "So it's a big adjustment but he's handling it really well."
Upon entering the 2013-14 season, I showed Dougie a photo from January, when he first arrived to Boston, and had him think back to that day, before he even played his first NHL game.
"It's been obviously a whirlwind, I guess," he had smiled, thinking about his first season. "You don't really expect that when you're 20."
"But it's something that you envision, and I think my whole life I've pictured myself in this situation, and even being better than I am now, so that's why I just want to keep getting better, continue to develop, and have fun."
Now that we know Dougie well on the ice, I recently caught up with the Bruins blueliner on the road in New York for an off-ice Q&A. Enjoy…
We've known you as Dougie since you arrived. Have you always been 'Dougie'?
"Yep. My dad's Doug so can't really have two Dougs in the family," he said. "So I go by Dougie, and I don't know when that will change."
Hamilton's father is a two-time Olympian, having rowed for Team Canada (he won a bronze medal in 1984). While not going by "Doug" might also be a form of respect, it's mostly out of habit. It also closely resembles a nickname, which (we all know) is the only way hockey players address each other.
And he's never been called another name besides "Dougie."
"Nothing that's really stuck. So I think Dougie in itself is I guess a good enough name to be called, and it's already kind of like a nickname so you don't really need anything else."
It just so happens his older brother, Freddie, has an awfully similar trend to his name. A winger in San Jose's system (drafted in 2010), Freddie and Dougie faced each other for the first time in the NHL this season.
"Yeah, my grandpa's name is Fred so I think that's just how we've always done it, and we like it that way."
Did you play any other sports growing up besides hockey?
"I think I played pretty much everything, mostly in school. Grade 9 was my last year of playing every sport and I think just to be able to play every sport, it helps you athletically and helps you in hockey as well, so it was a lot of fun."
So, was basketball in the mix, given the height advantage?
"No, I was never really that tall," he said, while admitting he never used to be the tallest kid in his class. "So I think I played it when I was younger because of my mom."
Mom Lynn played on Canada's Olympic basketball team in 1984, making it to the bronze medal game (athletic genes run in the family, eh?)
"But never really that good at it, so I didn't really take it too far."
Is there a reason behind why you wear No. 27?
"It was one of the numbers available in junior, so there's a couple of things that went into it. I liked Scott Niedermayer when I was little and was drafted 27th to the OHL so those were the two things I kind of thought about when I was picking it. I had it in junior and liked it, so I just stuck with it."
Niedermayer captained the Anaheim Ducks to their lone Stanley Cup in 2007 (with Shawn Thornton on the team), and the Canadian defenseman will always be remembered for his offensive-minded talent - and his ability to win at every level.
Favorite pregame meal?
"I think we eat the normal pasta and stuff, and lately, I've been having grilled cheese as a snack before the game, and it's helping me out."
No ketchup or fixin's though, just plain, protein-filled grilled cheese.
Living with Adam, who does the cooking? Grilled cheese usually the meal of choice?
"We kind of cook our own. I think he kind of has higher standards than me with the food. I'm a little more, I guess, 'junkier' than what he eats," laughed the defenseman, who has lived with Adam McQuaid since coming to Boston in January.
"So I just let him cook his and I just do my own, so we're both happy."
One thing that you always have to have in the fridge?
"That's the problem with our house, there's nothing in there."
If you could switch places with one of your teammates for a day, who would you choose?
"Probably Quaider," he smirked. "Because he has the best roommate."
"Anything kind of soft or Top 50." Soft music for the soft-spoken blueliner.
"It's a range of stuff, Phlilip Phillips, Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber."
Favorite song to sing along to?
"I don't like to sing along, I'm not too good at it," he laughed.
Not even a Bieber song? "No."
Favorite TV show growing up?
"That's a tough one, I think probably SportsCenter."
No Saved By the Bell? "I think maybe my brother [Freddie] watched a lot of that, I think family channel stuff like that, Recess, those different shows."
There are plenty of funny guys on this team. Whose sense of humor do you appreciate the most?
"I really kick out of Boychuk, Krejci as well, a few other guys, so it's a pretty fun team to be around with those guys."
Johnny Boychuk's candor brings a lightness to the group every day; David Krejci's underrated humor kicks in when you may least expect it. Regarless, there are always laughs around this group, and Hamilton appreciates being around for it.
And last but not least, would you be able to teach us how to Dougie?
"I could, yes," he responded, before breaking out into laughter.
Could, but won't on-camera!
Watch a video from Q&A below…
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