Despite engaging in some heated battles on the ice, opposing NHL players often forge enduring friendships away from the rink. We thought it might be interesting, then, to do some reconnaissance in the visitors' dressing room to get an occasional take on a Canadiens player from a friendly foe on another club. Today: Stars defenseman Dan Hamhuis on his former Nashville teammate, Shea Weber.
You guys were teammates for five years in Nashville. What was your first impression of Shea?
DAN HAMHUIS: He was pretty impressive right from the start. He was a big, strong guy who was dominating in the minors before getting called up. When he did, he was immediately effective; he was scoring goals and playing the type of game he's playing today.
Did it click right away between the two of you?
DH: I think it did. We don't live too far from each other in the summer in British Columbia. He's an easy guy to get along with and a great guy to play with. We clicked right away. Shea is one of those guys who I think I'll be friends with forever. We grew up together in Nashville and he's a guy that I always cheer for, especially with the big change that he went through this summer. I was really excited to see how well he started off there.
Did the fact that you're both from small towns in BC help forge the bond between the two of you back then?
DH: I think so. We both grew up in small towns in pretty humble beginnings -- neither of our families were living a privileged life or a luxurious lifestyle. Our parents sacrificed a lot to be able to put us through hockey and I think that was certainly a connection. We have the same outlook on life, the same values, and we appreciate everything we have.
Being good B.C. boys, who's more outdoorsy between the two of you?
DH: I love spending time outdoors. I've done a lot of the back country stuff and I know he talked to me many times that he loves to go mountain biking in Kelowna.
Is he really the strong, silent type, or does he have a wild side we just haven't seen yet?
DH: I wouldn't say that he has a wild side, but he certainly relaxes a bit. He likes to laugh and joke around. He's an incredible teammate that way. At the rink and at game time, he's all business and wants to win more than anything. But in the dressing room on an off day, he's a really pleasant guy to be around, a really nice guy to have dinner with, and he keeps the guys loose. You could tell from a young age that he was going to be a captain one day.
You actually first ran into him when you were a kid, at a hockey tournament in Shea's hometown, and he was one of the stick boys. Was he already an imposing figure back then?
DH: I was 15 when we played a Bantam Provincials tournament in Sicamous, and he was one of the stick boys of another team -- our former teammate in Nashville, Cody Franson, was our team's stick boy -- that was kind of our first run in with each other. I don't remember if he was already a big boy for his age. I know he remembers that tournament really well. I think it was pretty exciting for him being the young guy helping the older kids. Sicamous is a pretty small town in B.C., so for them to host a tournament like that was a big deal. It was special for me too since we won the tournament.
Did he ask you for an autograph back then?
DH: (laughs) I don't think so. I think I might have been bugging him when he first got to Nashville to take care of my sticks like old times.
Were you ever paired with Shea on the blue line in Nashville? How easy is it to play with a guy like that by your side?
DH: He makes the game easier for his partners. I was playing alongside Shea during his first year. He has that character trait where he just makes guys around him better, not necessarily by the way he plays on the ice, but just with his personality. He makes guys love being at the rink. He makes guys feel good about themselves and want to play well. It's hard to really put a finger on what exactly it is, but that's just who he is.
When you left Nashville for Vancouver a few years ago, you were on the other end of his thunderous slap shots, having to block them instead of setting them up. How fast does that one-timer come at you?
DH: It's pretty scary, especially when you're down at the net, battling with another forward and you don't always have time to look up and react. When he's shooting it, it's coming hard. Interestingly, he gets a lot of shots through because he's a good player, but also because guys kind of find a way to get out of the way sometimes. (laughs)
What's the key to not getting injured on those occasions?
DH: Make sure you have all your padding facing the puck. I've been lucky to never have been hit by one of his shots.
You've had the chance to play on the national team together, most notably in Sochi. How awesome was it to be reunited with him on the ice -- and to win an Olympic gold medal at the same time?
DH: It was fun being back together again. He's one of my favorite teammates I've ever played with. I was really excited to play on the ice with him a bit, but more so to hang out with him. He brings a lot to a team with his character and his personality, so it was fun to live that all over again
Is he the most Canadian man ever?
DH: I don't know about the most Canadian man ever, but he certainly fits the mold of a Canadian hockey player in all the right ways. (laughs)
Are you a little jealous of him, specifically that he gets the chance to play with Carey Price on a regular basis like in Sochi?
DH: (laughs) I'm quite happy about where I am here in Dallas where I have the opportunity to play with players like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. It's always fun when you play on a team with some of the world's best and he has that chance in Montreal with Carey behind him.