Whether he’s at the rink or on the ranch, Joel Hamilton believes hard work will pave the road to his future goals.
Next up on the 16-year-old Cochrane product’s lofty list is cracking the Red Deer Rebels roster.
“They know what I can do and they know I bring it every night,” said Hamilton of the Rebels’ coaching staff. “They’ve told me to keep doing that, just working hard and battling it out, playing good defensively and also bring some scoring.”
A strong work ethic isn’t something exclusive to Joel, the youngest of three brothers in the Hamilton household.
His oldest sibling Wyatt is currently preparing for his second stint with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds after proving himself as a consistent producer during a five-year run with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Camrose Kodiaks.
Meanwhile, Wacey — the middle child of the trio — took over captaincy duties in his third year with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers last season and continues to make a case for walk-on spot on numerous NHL teams after going undrafted.
Wacey said he attempts to provide guidance to Joel, who he believes has been blessed with more natural talent.
“He was fortunate enough to get drafted and I’ve told him, ‘Don’t take that for granted, you have got to be humble about your success and can’t really get complacent’,” Wacey said. “So far he’s done that, he always working hard to improve and get better. It’s good to see that as an older brother.”
Joel said Wacey serves as an important role model in his development.
“Mostly his message was don’t give up and keep going,” Joel said. “He’s pretty good at that,”
During the off-season, Wacey and Joel rarely have time to catch their breath, as both return home to help their father on the family’s highly regarded purebred cattle ranch. The two also train daily at the Edge School, a sports-based institution in the Calgary-area community of Springbank.
Joel attends the Edge School as well, allowing him to focus on both hockey and education under one roof.
He’s even had the opportunity to work with Andy O’Brien, the former personal strength and conditioning coach of Canadian hockey icon Sidney Crosby, who signed a five-year commitment with Edge that began last fall.
“It’s been really helpful,” Joel said of Edge. “They give you the tools and the teachers are really flexible when it comes to school work and things.”
Joel has put his training to good use. Last November, he helped Team Alberta to gold at the U16 Challenge Cup, a tournament to showcase young hockey talent from the four western provincial hockey associations.
“It was pretty unreal,” Joel said of the competition. “It was really high-level and you had to be at the top of your game to help the team succeed.”
Then, just last week, the spirited teenager received a phone call letting him know that he has made the 25-player shortlist for Team Pacific, which will battle at the U17 World Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg later this year.
Provincial and international accolades aside, Hamilton said he remains focused on the Rebels training camp, which begins with on-ice sessions Aug. 29.
“I am going to go pretty much as hard as I can for the next week or two and then rest for a couple days before camp,” said Joel, who also took part in last year’s camp.
And whether he cracks the roster this year or not, you can bet that by camp’s end no will have worked harder than the young farm boy from Cochrane.
After all, the never-say-die attitude is in his blood.
Jeremy Nolais is a Calgary-area sports columnist whose column appears in the Advocate every second Wedbnesday.