Dan Hamhuis is a good hockey player — of that, there is no doubt.
Ask around the Vancouver Canucks locker room, especially among the crop of rookies on this year’s roster, and you’ll quickly discover Hamhuis is a heck of a teammate too. From words of wisdom to help the young players transition to life in the big leagues to having young teammates over for dinner to get to know them better, Hamhuis has made a point of trying to share the experiences he’s enjoyed over a 12-year National Hockey League career with players who are just embarking on their paths as professionals.
With a wife and three young daughters, Hamhuis has a busy family life away from the rink so it’s not like he needs added responsibility. Yet he’s enjoying his role as father-figure to players like Jared McCann and Ben Hutton, both of whom singled Hamhuis out as a player they’ve turned to at times this season.
“It’s a privilege to be in that role on a team,” Hamhuis tells Canucks Army. “I think that’s a good trademark to have as a leader to serve your teammates and help them out. They’re young and learning and I remember being in that spot when I was that age and you really look up to the older guys and learn from them during games and off the ice. And it meant so much to me. Now I’m trying to return that favour and pay it forward.”
It seems like a lifetime ago that Hamhuis was a 20-year-old just starting out on his NHL career in Nashville as a highly-touted first-round pick of the Predators in the fall of 2003. He sees himself in his young Canucks teammates and wants to do whatever he can to make their lives easier and better – on and off the ice.
It’s obvious Hamhuis had teammates who left a lasting impression on him. Now all these years later, his goal is to be that same guiding presence for Canucks rookies if and when they need a sounding board.
“I remember having a Christmas dinner at Rem Murray’s house and I had dinner at Jim McKenzie’s house and also at Jason York’s and it means a lot for a guy who’s on his own,” he says, claiming he has no specific message for his teammates and simply wants them to know he’s there for them whenever they need him. “As things come up, you try to speak to them. During games, in between periods, just a little comment here or there to help them handle any adversity they’re going through or even with good stuff. I try to help them be a good pro and a good person.”
Hamhuis and his wife Sarah have opened their doors to the Canucks rookies on a number of occasions this season. The young players get a night out and a home-cooked dinner, but to hear Hamhuis talk, it almost sounds like he and his family get more out of the get-togethers than his houseguests.
“I think that’s where you really get to know your teammates is away from the rink and for them to get to know me,” he says. “I have so much more going on in my life than what happens on here at the rink with a wife and kids. My daughters get really excited to have these guys over – and it’s funny because they’re actually closer in age with these guys than I am. The girls create name tags and place mats for them and they organize games so the guys are down on the floor playing with them and the girls usually organize some sort of treasure hunt for them. While my wife and I are cooking dinner, they — I say ‘all the kids’ — are out playing games and having fun.”
With less a month to go in the season – and perhaps in the pending unrestricted free agent’s time as a Canuck – Hamhuis is hopeful he can squeeze in at least one more dinner with his young teammates. Once again, proving the kind of leader and role model he is, Hamhuis says the next gathering will include space for one more – perhaps two, if a translator is required.
“We’ll see if we can get enough food on the table for the big Russian here,” he says with a laugh.
Hamhuis can’t possibly know yet just how much Nikita Tryamkin eats, but he sounds eager to find out. It’s just the latest example of the veteran opening his door — and his arms — to a rookie teammate to make life a little easier. That’s what leaders do and it’s pretty clear that Hamhuis has played a valuable role in the lives of the young Canucks this season. His time here may soon come to end, but the impression he’s made will clearly live on in the next wave of Canucks for years to come.