As far as villains go, Dougie Hamilton is a bit of an odd choice.
He’s a relatively quiet guy. He doesn’t seem to talk too much trash. He doesn’t have a reputation for being a dirty player.
And yet in Game 1, Bruins fans continued the tradition of soundly booing Hamilton every time he touched the puck. The booing got louder when Hamilton took two bad penalties in the third period (both of which were a little questionable). Bruins fans could barely contain their glee as Hamilton made the long skate from the penalty box after a power play goal for the home team.
“DOOOOOOOOOOOOOUG-IE” went the sing-song chants. It was quite the reception for the guy who will apparently be Public Enemy #1 in this series, at least until another Carolina Hurricane takes the mantle with a big goal or cheap hit.
The takes have been ultra hot too. Twitter and (especially) Facebook have been filled with Hamilton ridicule: overrated, soft, weak, a wimp, etc. You know the drill.
All of it got me thinking...does Dougie Hamilton deserve the reputation he has among Bruins fans?
To me, the answer is a mixed bag.
On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with booing a player on the opposing team, especially one who’s a pretty good player. In a vacuum, it makes sense.
Of course, the Hamilton situation isn’t happening in a vacuum, and there’s a long, long backstory. That’s where things get a bit murky.
The perception among Bruins fans is that Hamilton was a malcontent who demanded a trade back in 2015. The Bruins offered him a fair deal, the story goes, only to have him reject it.
One of the more popular theories is that Hamilton refused to sign with the Bruins because they wouldn’t sign his brother, Freddie. That rumor was mainly pushed by a guy out of Toronto who uh...doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation. However, the Flames acquiring Freddie Hamilton certainly didn’t put those rumors to rest.
I tend to put more stock in someone like Elliotte Friedman, who had this to say about Hamilton this past summer:
The move out of Massachusetts definitely was a personality clash, with differing opinions on who was right and who was wrong.
Hamilton, for his part, insists that he didn’t demand a trade out of Boston. He may be telling the truth, but you can force a trade without demanding one. Plus, nearly 4 years later, it seems unlikely that all of a sudden he’s going to start spilling the beans.
The problem with Hamilton, it seems, is Hamilton himself. But his “problem” seems to be little more than the fact that he’s a different dude.
There were rumblings of it Boston, and roars about it out of Calgary: he’s weird, he’s different, he marches to the beat of his own drum, whatever you want to call it.
The Calgary takes got completely insane, with rumors about Hamilton’s love of museums being the thing that got him traded. Who doesn’t love a good museum?
My guess is that the main issue with Hamilton in Boston was that he wasn’t the right fit in the locker room. In a group that had some strong personalities and some ingrained veteran leadership, it’s not hard to see an aloof rookie coming off as standoffish, or worse.
If that’s the case, it says worse things about the Bruins’ locker room than it does about Hamilton. Your job as a veteran is to shepherd in the new crop, not shun anyone who doesn’t do things your way (though that’s never what happens).
Different is rarely good in hockey circles, and is especially poisonous in the locker room. I heard similar things about Ryan Spooner over the years, almost verbatim: “not a bad guy, just different.”
It appears that he may have found a good landing spot in Carolina. The Hurricanes have a mixture of veterans and young guys, and can be considered a franchise that marches to the beat of its own drum with their “jerk” antics (which are great, by the way).
His coach has his back as well:
"He's an interesting guy and I think he's misunderstood, totally."— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) May 11, 2019
-- Rod Brind'Amour on his impressions of Dougie Hamilton since joining @NHLCanes. #TakeWarning | #StanleyCup Playoffs pic.twitter.com/V1nB7j4l5M
This isn’t meant as a knock on Carolina as a hockey market, but it could be that the spotlights of Boston and Calgary (for hockey, at least) weren’t a great fit for a guy who prefers to fly under the radar. If he’s found his niche in Raleigh, more power to him.
The other Hamilton takes you’ll hear from Bruins fans are filled with revisionist history:
- “He was never even that good, we never liked him.” - He was absolutely viewed as a potential #1 defenseman during his time here.
- “He sucked anyways.” - Incorrect.
- “He was soft.” - The bailing on Ovechkin was bad, but the “soft” label is attached to any Bruin over 6’ 2” who doesn’t want to be the next Terry O’Reilly.
The truth of the matter is that Hamilton was a good player when he was here, and Bruins fans wanted him to be a good player here for years. When that didn’t happen (regardless of why), the boos start. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how professional sports work.
However, the ideas that the Bruins are inside Hamilton’s head or that he simply can’t handle the booing seem off-base. If the guy is as different as people say, chances are he truly doesn’t care.
The booing of Hamilton should boil down to a fairly simple fact: he’s a good player who doesn’t play here anymore. That deserves booing. Phil Kessel gets the same treatment; coincidentally, he’s another “different” guy who had trouble with the same Bruins’ core.
But the idea that Hamilton is somehow lesser or a bad guy because he’s a different personality seems pretty unfair. Boo the player, not the takes.
And hey - we could all use a museum trip every once in a while.