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Dan Hamhuis’ NHL retirement courts more family time, support for Prince George Cougars

Sixteen-year veteran looking forward to what the future holds

“I don’t think I have any regrets in my career.”

Dan Hamhuis is back in his hometown of Smithers and now, undoubtedly, has all the time in the world to reflect on his illustrious 16-year stint as a professional hockey player.

The 37-year-old officially retired from the NHL on Aug. 13, 2020, making it official in an interview with TSN 1040 Vancouver, explaining he and his family were at peace with the decision following the Nashville Predators’ exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Today (Aug. 25), he says regardless of what’s next, his outlook on life remains the same.

“I approach each year, each day really, with the mindset to leave it all out there,” Hamhuis explained to PrinceGeorgeMatters.

“I never wanted to be at the end of my career and have a regret or think, ‘I wish I would’ve done this,’ or ‘I wish I would’ve done that.’ I think I recognized that probably 10-15 years ago and I put the work in every day and every summer trying to be the best I can be so I’d never have that feeling when I was done.”

In addition to spending more time with family and experiencing life with his kids, the 2002 WHL and CHL Defenceman of the Year hopes to have a supportive role in the years to come with the Prince George Cougars.

In 2014, the Cats’ alum became a part-owner of northern B.C.’s major junior franchise.

While there’s no current front-office or hockey-operations position to take over, Hamhuis understands being part of the team’s culture could be very helpful down the road.

“Eric Brewer has been doing great things on the hockey side of things for our ownership group, John Pateman’s been doing a great job on the business side of things for our ownership group, Mark Lamb as our GM and coach is doing a great job in that too," said Hamhuis, who also attended the Cougars' annual Hospital Charity Golf Tournament last year

"My biggest thing would be to be around a bit more, be a little more present, you know, be there for training camp if it works out, whenever that is, and hopefully catch some more games. And just to be around the team, around the players and our staff, just to be more present.”

When asked to pinpoint a single factor of his time in Prince George to attribute his success as an NHL defenceman, Hamhuis simply said the opportunity to play at a high level of hockey was more than enough.

He credits Ed Dempsey, former seven-year head coach of the Cougars, and his willingness to take a chance in putting a kid from northwest B.C. on the blue-line in 1998.

“I don't know what he saw early on, but certainly appreciative of having me on the team,” said Hamhuis with a slight chuckle.

“It wasn’t a huge role for me the first year, but just to play about 50-some games with the team, it was a big step from single ‘A’ hockey in Smithers. The one thing I liked about Ed as a coach, he was simple [...] he was a great motivator. One of his best motivating things was nothing he really said, it was just the way he ran his team. You play good, you play more, and that was motivating to me. I wanted to play more and more, so the better you play, the more you get, and by the end of my career there, I was playing a ton of minutes and even into my second and third year, my role had increased each year. So I think that really helped my development.”

Since his Prince George days, and a couple seasons in the AHL, Hamhuis made his NHL debut on Oct. 9, 2003 with Nashville, two years after the Preds took him 12th overall at the 2001 draft.

He went on to play for the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars, eclipsing the 1,000-game mark on Jan. 30, 2018 and earning the silver stick.

In terms of accolades, however, Hamhuis says none compares two-fold to capturing gold with Canada at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

“One is simply making that team was a major accomplishment for me personally, and then the experience of being over there, participating in the Olympics and winning the Olympics, it’s certainly got to be right up here with the highlights of my career,” he explains. 

“Not far behind it is that 2010-11 season with the Vancouver Canucks. It was exciting to play for a team that I grew up watching, then just the year that we had in winning the President’s Trophy and going to the Stanley Cup Final, that would be right up there with it.”

The Canucks lost that final to the Boston Bruins, but Hamhuis delivered a memorable hip check against Milan Lucic in Game One and, needless to say, brought Vancouver fans to their feet.

His entire NHL career ended at 1,148 games, tallying 59 goals and 356 points, plus 21 points in 68 playoff contests.

It also includes two other gold medals with Canada at the World Championships (2007, 2015), along with two silvers (2008, 2009), plus two World Junior medals prior to joining the NHL with a silver in 2002 and bronze in 2001.

When the time came for Hamhuis to hang up his skates for good, he and his wife Sarah were content in pursuing life’s next chapter.

“We put a lot of thought into the decision over the past few years leading up to it, and then felt like that [2020] was probably the year to do it. Through the year, we just had a lot of self-awareness of our situation, kind of felt it out, and so, when it came time to completely make the commitment to retiring, there was no second-guessing it. There was no anxiety or ‘Am I doing the right thing?’, and probably, even further than that, it was just a sense of excitement of what the next phase of life is going to bring.”

He tells PrinceGeorgeMatters his family is looking forward to living consistently in one city, and fewer road trips, and taking part in new activities before school begins in September.