Born in Smithers, BC, Daniel Hamhuis is playing for the home team in Vancouver. It should be no surprise that the 6’1” defenceman has a large (and growing) cheering section in the Rogers Arena stands, but he’s also developed fans across the country for his Team Canada play, and across the world for his humanitarian efforts.
Dan Hamhuis is one of those special players. When a 7.0 earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti, Hamhuis volunteered on behalf of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) to travel there and do what he could. When Devin Smith, chairman of the Goals and Dreams fund, sought to find interest among NHL players, Hamhuis jumped at the chance. “I don’t think there will ever be a more challenging or devastated area that I will go to in this job, but Dan right away was the guy who answered first,” Smith said in a Postmedia News report. “He had talked it over with his wife and he really wanted to go.” However, it was clear this wasn’t just about good publicity for Hamhuis. “When I talked to him about the trip, it was different than a lot of discussions I’ve had with players,” Smith explained. “He was asking about the impact we were going to make and how were we going to meet people. Part of these trips is about PR – to get the word out so people will donate. Dan understood that. But he was more interested in how he would be able to give back and get involved with World Vision.” The NHLPA donated $1 million to aid the Haiti recovery on the trip.
Born into a Christian home, he has managed to keep a humble and giving spirit despite his success and inflating paycheque. During his time in Nashville, he told the inter-denominational Christian, Canadian newspaper Living Light News that he maintains his composure by thinking of a bigger picture. “There are things I would like to accomplish, like winning the Stanley Cup, but my faith helps me keep things in perspective, knowing that things of this life are just temporary.” That faith in a higher power has likely been a relief for him not just in the good times, but also during the bad.
A broken leg during his Bantam WHL draft year kept him out of the sight of WHL talent scouts, and ultimately from progressing at the rate he had been going. However, his time with the Junior “A” minors experience with the Prince George Spruce Kings served him well, and in the 1998-1999 WHL Season he played 56 games for the Prince George Cougars – he earned four points and was a minus-six. It was clearly a different league than his previous year in Smithers where he had amassed 59 goals and 131 points in 59 games, but his defensive play was enough to earn him the 1999 Rookie of the Year award, as well as the All-Scholastic Player award. He showed considerable improvement in his second WHL season, with 10 goals and 33 points, finishing a plus-4, and again snagging the All-Scholastic award.
That season got him recognized and the next year he was asked to play in the 2001 IIHF World U20 Championships (World Juniors) for Team Canada. He managed a single assist in the seven-game, bronze-medal-winning effort by the Canadians. His play with the Cougars also improved in his third season, with an impressive total of 13 goals and 59 points in 62 games – though he did finish a minus-15. He was added to the WHL West First All-Star Team, and he also played in, and captained his team in the 2001 CHL Top Prospects Game.
That season was all it took, because on June 23, 2001, Hamhuis was selected in the first round by the Nashville Predators. He was just the 12th player selected overall, and just the second defenceman by that point. Despite being drafted, Hamhuis returned to the WHL to finish his final season (2001-2002) with the Cougars. He played just 59 games, but amassed 60 points, including 10 goals, and finished the season as a plus-10. His play earned him the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the WHL defenceman of the year. He also won the Player of the Year award, the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy. He was again invited to play in the World Juniors, and this time he contributed three assists in six games, as the team secured a Silver medal, losing 5-4 to Russia.
Following that incredible final season in the WHL, Hamhuis spent his 2002-2003 season in the AHL, playing for the Milwaukee Admirals. He scored six goals for a total of 27 points in 68 games played.
By 2003-2004 Hamhuis was ready to don an NHL jersey, and played 80 games for the Predators. His first NHL goal was a game-winner on the power play, in an October 16 matchup against the St. Louis Blues. He finished his first season with 26 points, including seven goals. Though he was a minus-12, it was an impressive rookie season. Nevertheless, he would spend the next season in the AHL. An impressive 51 points, including 13 goals, for the Admirals was enough to bring him back to the main show in 2005-2006.
The move to keep him back a year seemed to pay off because he improved to 38 points, and a plus-11 in his second NHL season. Unfortunately, in the 06-07 season his play would drop off; he managed a six-goal, 20-point performance. In 07-08 he jumped to 27 points, but dropped from a plus-8 the previous season to a minus-4. The 08-09 season saw him match the minus-4, but drop a single point to 26 points, and only three goals. The following season would be his last in a Predators uniform; he dropped to 24 points, but improved to a plus-4.
Over the course of his Nashville career, Hamhuis was also selected to play for Team Canada in the Ice Hockey World Championships. In the four years he attended, from 06-09, Hamhuis scored five goals and managed 14 points, enough for a gold and two silvers.
When Hamhuis became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010, his decision to sign with the Vancouver Canucks may have been largely influenced by his family ties. His parents and his two sisters still live in Smithers, and his father, Marty, and his sisters, Erin and Cindy, play hockey. Speaking of his choice to sign a six-year, $27 million contract in BC, he told The Vancouver Sun that he and his wife, Sarah, who is also from Smithers, were definitely influenced by the desire to come home. “Vancouver is a city we’re familiar with and a team I’ve always watched growing up. I’m certainly very excited to sign here.”
With a few minor setbacks, including a minor concussion, Hamhuis is having a record year in Vancouver. Most impressively, his plus-minus rating has shot through the roof in Vancouver, sitting at a comfortable 24 after a March 14 skirmish with the Minnesota Wild, ninth in the NHL. He has established himself as a shutdown defenceman with an offensive kick. His smooth-skating is some of the best in the NHL, and his 209-pound body checks have been some of the most devastating hits that Vancouver fans have seen all year. At 28-years-of-age, he brings a mature, reassured calmness to the Canucks dressing room, which will be of particular importance after the regular season has come to a close. Daniel Hamhuis, welcome home.