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Hamilton Smart Enough To Know What Sport's For Him

Thursday, 16.06.2011 / 2:30 PM / Draft Central 2011
NHL.com

Racing experts project a horse's potential by examining the results of its parents.

With Dougie Hamilton's bloodlines, it's pretty easy to call him a star thoroughbred in the making.

His father, Doug, won a bronze medal for Canada in rowing at the 1984 Olympics and a gold medal at the 1985 World Championship. His mother, Lynn, played on Canada's fourth-place women's basketball team at the '84 Games, and won a World Championship bronze in '86.

And his older brother, Freddie, was a fifth-round pick by the San Jose Sharks at the 2010 Draft, and after scoring 38 goals and 83 points, earned an entry-level contract with the club.

It's certain Dougie, a 6-foot-4, 187-pound star defenseman with the Niagara IceDogs, won't be available in the fifth round of the 2011 Entry Draft. He's No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for this month's Draft, and its top-rated domestic defenseman. He led his team in playoff scoring and was third among Ontario Hockey League defensemen with 16 points in 14 games. That followed a regular season that saw him score 12 goals and finish with 58 points, fourth among OHL blueliners.

"I just like everything he does, everything about his game," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He's a solid, solid defensive guy. You started to see more toward the end of the year a more physical aspect to his game that I didn't really see earlier on. It was great to see that. He's so big and strong that when he decides he's going to pin somebody, that's it. That guy's finished."

Success isn't just something that's followed Dougie on the ice. He's just as big a star in the classroom -- last year he won the OHL's top academic high-school player award, and this past season he took home the league's Scholastic Player of the Year award. He posted a 94-percent academic average, including a 97 in calculus and a 95 in physics.

As smart as he is in the classroom and on the ice, Dougie also has been smart enough to carve his own path, separate from his parents' athletic success.

"They (his parents) always told us to do what you love and try to be your best at it," Hamilton told NHL.com. "They never really pushed us in to hockey, it's just me and my brothers ended up loving that. I'm sure my mom would have liked us to be basketball players and my dad rowers, and there could be a possibility of that. For us, it's always just been hockey."

Dougie did give his parents' sports a try, but like everything else, he was smart enough to stick with the sport that worked for him.

"Every kid plays basketball," he said. "I wasn't very good at it. I think I'm a good athlete, but never really had that gift I have in hockey. Rowing, I tried it once, but for me I don't think there's any fun in rowing. Just a lot of hard work. Give a lot of credit to my dad for being able to do that."

Besides his skill level, Hamilton said he and the coach didn't always see eye-to-eye.

"I played in grade 5 on our school team," he said. "My mom was coaching me and my brother. I don't think there were any plays she made to give me the ball. I was usually playing defense and getting rebounds."

Even at the youth level, a woman coaching a boys' team is out of the ordinary, but when the woman is an Olympic-level athlete, there isn't much the players can complain about -- even if one of them is the coach's son.

"We did pretty well," he said, "(but) it was definitely a little bit harder (playing for her). My mom will tell you I wasn't a really good listener to her. But it was a lot of fun, and good memories looking back at it. She's a smart lady and been through sports and watched me and my brother for so long."

Hamilton's experiences in crew with his father also are times he remembers fondly. In St. Catharines, Ont., where Hamilton grew up, crew is a big deal.

"It was a double, so me and my brother took turns with my dad, otherwise we would have tipped," said Hamilton. "In St. Catharines all my friends row, there's a lot of regattas every weekend. My dad is rowing right now with one of his old crewmates. It's kind of interesting … you don't really hear about rowing in Toronto, and you come into (St. Catharines) the Ontario hotbed of rowing -- it's cool."

While his parents have served as good role models for sports and life in general, the person he most looks up to is Freddie. A teammate for the last two seasons with Niagara, Dougie watched closely as Freddie went through his draft season last year.

"You grow up watching it, watching the draft," Hamilton said. "It's cool to have your brother in it and just watching him go through it and knowing that hopefully you'll be doing the same thing a year later."

One thing he said he hasn't thought about, however, is playing next season without Freddie. Freddie could play next season in the American Hockey League, or return for one more season in Niagara. Dougie, by virtue of his high draft status and even higher skill level, has a shot to play in the NHL next season. The pair has been teammates the last two seasons with the IceDogs, and while Dougie isn't quite ready for that partnership to end, he's smart enough to see both sides of the issue.

"It would be really cool if we could play together," he said. "If that's not possible, I think it would be pretty cool to play against him, too. I don't really think about it too much. For me, one thing at a time. I'm just soaking in everything in this month. I think it's really exciting and I'm really looking forward to it. After that, whatever happens at the draft, I'm just going to work as hard as I can throughout the summer and see what happens."

Pretty smart answer, eh?

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