One of the hottest goaltenders in hockey is a Surrey-raised player who, as a teenager, nearly quit the game he loves.
Andrew "Hamburglar" Hammond has won five games in a row for Ottawa Senators, including back-to-back shutouts against the high-flying Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings during a California road trip last week.
On Monday (March 2), Hammond was named the NHLâ€™s first star of the week, topping all-stars P.K. Subban (second star) of Montreal Canadiens and Evgeni Malkin (third) of Pittsburgh Penguins.
â€œIâ€™m just trying to enjoy it right now but also work hard and make sure Iâ€™m ready for the next game, whenever it is,â€ Hammond, 27, told the Now in a phone interview Friday (Feb. 27) from a hotel room in San Jose.
â€œIâ€™ve been given an opportunity here.â€
Evidently a late bloomer, Hammond grew up playing for teams with Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association and graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary.
â€œI always was the kid who at age six was begging my parents to take shots on me in the driveway,â€ Hammond said. â€œI was hooked on hockey after that â€™94 Canucks (playoff) run and always dreamed about being in the NHL.â€
As a teen, Hammond played almost three dozen games for the Surrey Eagles and, after a trade was in the works, began to doubt whether he wanted to continue playing hockey.
â€œThings werenâ€™t going for him and he wasnâ€™t playing much, so he was going to hang them up,â€ said Sean Murray, a goaltending coach who has worked with Hammond for 17 years.
During the 2007-08 season, Hammond was dealt to Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.
â€œHe wasnâ€™t sure he was going to go,â€ Murray recalled, â€œI said to him, â€˜Just go play, you never know whatâ€™s going to happen, right?â€™ So he went up there and all of a sudden he won the RBC Cup (national championship) with them. He finally got the chance to play, and with a decent team, and he just took off from there.â€
Murray said Hammond was never the most gifted player growing up, but he always worked hard and strived to succeed on the ice.
â€œHe wasnâ€™t a superstar, just a kid who grew and grew and grew into the game, you know what I mean?â€ Murray told the Now. â€œHe wasnâ€™t the best kid out there but he had a great attitude, steady progress all the way through. He picked up things well and he worked at it to be better.
â€œSome players peak really early, but heâ€™s one who worked his way there. He had to fight and scrap all the way,â€ Murray added. â€¨
â€œItâ€™s perseverance, you know. Itâ€™s brought a tear to my eye more than once over the past week or so here, watching this unfold for him. I know all of his ups and downs, and doubts. Heâ€™s a great example of sticking to it and having the dream happen for real.â€
Hammond was never drafted to the NHL. After his Junior A hockey days were done, he went to Bowling Green University in Ohio and, in 2013, signed as a free agent with the Senators.
This season, with goalie injuries mounting in mid-February, the Sens recalled Hammond from their AHL affiliate, Binghampton Senators.
Out of the gate, Hammond made the most of his opportunity with the Ottawa team, beating Montreal Canadians and Florida Panthers before the team travelled to California. There, in addition to victories over the Ducks and Kings, Hammond earned a 4-2 win over San Jose Sharks last Saturday night (Feb. 28).
His parents, Marshall and Sandie, who still live in South Surrey, were in California to watch their son record the rare back-to-back shutouts â€” the first time they were in the stands to see him play in the NHL.
â€œI guess they kind of are good-luck charms, the way itâ€™s worked out with them seeing me and both of them being shutouts,â€ Hammond said. â€œItâ€™s been fun, for sure â€” for me and for them, too.â€
During the Senatorsâ€™ swing through California, Hammond went 3-0-0 with a sizzling 0.67 goals-against average and .978 save percentage. During the teamâ€™s current winning streak, Hammond become the first goaltender in Senators history to win each of his first five career starts. Overall, he is 5-0-0 with a 1.18 goals-against average, .959 save percentage and two shutouts in seven career games, the first two in relief appearances.
Hammond and wife, Marlee, live in the town of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, not far from Detroit. He still visits his family in Surrey every summer, and continues training sessions with Murray.
â€œItâ€™s not typical for a player my age to get his first start as a goalie in the NHL, but itâ€™s not unheard of, so Iâ€™m just making the most of it,â€ Hammond said.
On Tuesday (March 3), the Senators are in Minnesota to play the Wild.