Dougie Hamilton is entering his second season for the Carolina Hurricanes; a season that, thus far, has cemented why Dougie and Carolina are made for one another.
It is rare that a player finds a forever home in the world of professional sports. The games that we love are, ultimately, always a business. It is those rare occasions, however, that should be cherished.
The Carolina Hurricanes are a team that has a long history of great players who have connected with the fans in a special way. Players who have earned a place in the heart of every Caniac; and Caniacs also earning a place in the heart of the player.
Players like Rod Brind’ Amour come to mind, a man who spent the last 20 years in Carolina since being traded. Ron Francis seemed to always return to the Oak City during his 23 year career; or Justin Williams, who returned with a vengeance prior to his hockey hiatus.
This may be the sort of player-fan relationship that is developing before our very eyes. It is this player, however, who seems a little more fitting. A player who has had a difficult road to Raleigh, finding a home among a team who has had a difficult time finding their place in the landscape of the NHL.
There are players on this roster who have found a home in Carolina. Jaccob Slavin is beloved by this fanbase, and will likely remain in Carolina for the foreseeable future. Jordan Staal has spent his best years in Carolina, and should be the team captain till he moves on.
No player, however, has carved out as special a place in the hearts of Carolina Hurricanes fans, as quickly as one player. That player is Dougie Hamilton. Dougie is one of the many talented and respected names on Carolinas monstrous blue line, and his offensive prowess has become irreplaceable for this group going forward.
Dougie’s story is an interesting one. He was a top ten pick, he has over 80 goals in seven seasons, and he’s scored over 40 points four times. Despite his accolades, Hamilton never quite had a place to call home.
The 26-year-old Toronto native spent three seasons in Boston, gradually growing his point total every season. He was then traded to Calgary, where he spent three seasons, ultimately producing a career high 50 point year in 2016. He never seemed to fit in to the Boston mold, and Calgary never seemed to cherish the talent they had.
Despite his production and overall upside, Dougie was never really perceived as an elite defenseman. His numbers weren’t NHL leading, but his consistency and presence where always more impactful than many would infer.
This often came down to the perception that many teams had of Dougie the man. He was viewed as a little different. He wasn’t the prototypical “hockey player”, and he often lived to the beat of his own drum. This was given as a reason for Calgary’s decision to trade the young defenseman for two younger, and unproven, talents.
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Dougie seemed to be an outsider, he probably still is; and that is what Caniacs absolutely adore about the player. This fanbase can relate to Dougie. Often perceived as lacking in some way, Raleigh was never the traditional “hockey market”, and always boasted a fanbase that lacked a true identity.
We were on the outside. We weren’t Boston or New York, we were die hard fans of a team that gave us no reason to express our devotion. We were willing to scream and cheer for a logo that meant so much to us, but had only longed for that opportunity.
That all changed last season. The year of the Jerks; the year that Carolina found their identity. We embraced the mindset of a hockey outsider, and we loved it.
A guy who was misunderstood and maligned for being his own man was gifted to a franchise desperately seeking a team that could help them be understood; Caniac nation and Dougie Hamilton where a match made in hockey heaven.
Honestly, what other fanbase would adore a guy willing to floss on center ice after being named one of the three stars?
The year of the Jerks may be over, but much of that mentality still remains, Dougie is a part of that. This team is bordering on being great, and Dougie is a big part of that. His personality, talent, and overall love for this team will keep Hamilton firmly entrenched in the heart of every Caniac.
Raleigh may have found another adopted son, and the sky is the limit for who he’ll be.
Question for CC Readers: is Dougie Hamilton one of your favorite Hurricanes?