SOMERVILLE, MA - Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton joined the Bruins Street Brigade on Monday, October 7 to bring street hockey to the city of Somerville.
After surprising a group of young players from Somerville Youth Hockey, Hamilton spent over an hour participating in exercises and energetic scrimmages, posing for pictures and signing autographs for the myriad of kids, parents, and fans that showed up to Somerville High School.
The Bruins Street Brigade program is designed to give youth guidance and allow them access to hockey equipment through donation so they can play a team-oriented sport in a safe and fun environment.
Dougie was all smiles throughout the event, giving positive reinforcement and at one point helping one of the young goaltenders get his stick untangled from the net.
Afterwards, Hamilton understood the positive role he played.
“Feels good. You remember when you were a kid and having that opportunity to meet a player or something, so for me, just trying to make them smile and have fun,” said Hamilton.
The 20-year-old Bruin broke into the NHL last season, playing in seven crucial playoff games and over 40 regular season contests.
Asked if his young age made the experience helping kids any more special, he said, “I think so. I call myself a kid, so I guess it doesn’t feel too long ago that I was in their shoes, and it’s nice to make them smile and try to make something for them to talk about.”
His appearance will certainly do that, according to one parent of a participating child, who said the experience was “something the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Former Boston Bruin and current Youth Hockey Ambassador Tommy Songin also believes the program has a strong positive effect.
“It’s great to be a part of helping these kids put something together, keep them busy, and also it’s healthy for them too; mentally and physically. [Playing sports] keep them away from their iPads and their phones and their texting,” he smiled.
And it doesn’t hurt to have a young role model like Hamilton around while doing so.
“Here’s a gentleman that’s worked his butt off to get where he is and look at what he’s accomplished,” said Songin.
“He did a wonderful job with those kids today. And I think he knows what it takes. And I think being there today showed those kids that they need to stay active just like he is.”
Some kids were affected right away by Hamilton's presence; others may realize the effects down the road.
One young girl, five-year-old Caroline, was trying hockey for the first time. Amidst all of the older kids, including her older sister, who was decked in her Somerville Youth Hockey jersey, Caroline ended up being awarded a penalty shot after receiving the brunt of an errant hockey stick.
As tears were forming in her eyes from the fall, Hamilton gave her a few words of encouragement and preoccupied the goalie for her as she walked in and scored. A quick high-five later, she flashed a smile.
Caroline may not understand the moment in the present, but years from now, Hamilton will have been the one to assist on her first goal.
Brian O’Donovan, president of the Somerville Youth Hockey Association, was very happy with the clinic's outcome, having Hamilton on hand.
“To be able to get someone like Dougie Hamilton here for our program is enormous. And you see it wasn’t just hockey kids here,” he said. “There were kids from the high school, kids from soccer, kids from every program in the city as they found out the Bruins were coming.”
Working on his defensive game in a much different setting, and spending time battling through far more stick traffic than he’s likely ever seen before (which is tough to do), Hamilton was surrounded by 30 or so kids at a time.
So, any future Bruins on the gym floor?
“There were a couple; the goalies were pretty good. I think a couple of other ones. Who knows?” smiled Hamilton.
---Written by Ethan Hartley for BostonBruins.com (Caryn Switaj contributed to this story)