Hamilton gets an 'A' for effort
He won’t be adorned with the first letter in the alphabet on a permanent basis this season, but Joel Hamilton takes great pride in sporting an ‘A’ on his Red Deer Rebels jersey.
“It’s just temporary until Kayle Doetzel gets back (from injury), but it’s still nice to wear on your chest,” said the second-year forward. “It’s nice to know that the coaches see you as a leader and a guy who can wear a letter. It shows me that the coaches regard me as a high-end guy and a guy who they can trust.”
Hamilton was appointed as a Rebels alternate captain when Doetzel went down with a facial injury one month ago. To head coach Jesse Wallin, the selection of Hamilton to temporarily replace Doetzel as an on-ice leader was a no-brainer.
“He’s a heart and soul kid, a guy who’s not big in stature but plays with a lot of heart,” said Wallin, whose club opens a five-game road trip tonight against the Spokane Chiefs.
Wallin pointed out that the manner in which Hamilton has rebounded from a serious injury suffered late last season is proof of the Cochrane product’s resiliency and toughness. The five-foot-nine, 160-pound winger suffered a fracture of his L1 and L2 vertebrae in February when he was slammed into the single stanchion between the players benches at the Centrium.
Hamilton’s season was over.
“Coming off the injury, and it was a major injury and a rare injury . . . no one really knew how he was going to respond,” said Wallin. “He’s responded very well, he hasn’t played tentative. He got back into it right away, took some checks and just continued on. He’s played very well for us for the most part.”
Hamilton, a fourth-round selection in the 2009 WHL bantam draft, put up 18 points (5g,13a) in 44 games as a Rebels rookie and this season sits fifth in team scoring with 10 points, including nine assists, in 18 games.
“Just knowing what to expect after playing in the league for a year has made it a lot easier for me this season,” he said. “This year has been going quite well for me and hopefully if I can stay healthy and keep chipping away, it will just keep getting better.”
The Rebels’ current venture into the United States is a first for Hamilton. He sees the trip as a working adventure.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” he said, just prior to the team boarding the bus for an overnight journey to Spokane. “I’m not sure what to expect as far as playing in the rinks down there and the fans, but I’m anxious to see what that’s all about. I hear it’s unreal and I can’t wait.”
Hamilton is sure that the Rebels will be successful on the nine-day trip if the players are all on the same page.
“For us, it’s pretty simple. When things are going good the guys are working and everyone is playing hard. When we have 20 guys going in the same direction things are going well and we’re winning games,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having that consistency that’s needed to keep it going well. That’s something we have to keep working on.”
Hamilton added that the Rebels play more relaxed — but also with a healthy measure of intensity — when they are winning.
“Lately, we’ve tried to keep things light in the room,” he said. “Obviously we’re still focusing on the games but we’re just trying to keep things light and happy. Instead of going out on the ice and gripping our sticks and being nervous . . . it’s a lot easier to just go out and play.”