MONTREAL - Does time really fly when you’re having fun? Just ask Roman Hamrlik. Weeks away from suiting up for his 17th NHL season, the big defenseman has been on a roll since the Lightning drafted him first overall in 1992.
Always willing to do whatever he can to help the cause, the veteran blue-liner isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body for a win. Last year, Hamrlik threw all of his 6-foot-2, 209-pound frame in front of a career-high 195 shots. Selflessly taking a few hundred for the team, the Zlin, Czech Republic native ranked fifth overall in the league in blocked shots. And when it comes to stacking up against European players, only fellow countryman Zbynek Michalek from the Coyotes got in the way of more pucks in 2008-09.
Hamrlik’s specialty may be stopping goals, but the 35-year-old is no slouch when it comes to potting a few of his own either. While All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov
paced all Habs rearguards with 64 points last season, Hamrlik finished No. 2 among Canadiens defensemen with 33 points to his credit.
His six goals and 27 helpers combined with his solid play in his own zone also helped Hamrlik cap off the season with a plus-4 differential, again ranking second among Montreal blue-liners in that category.
A man of experience, Hamrlik will enter the 1,200 game club over the course of the coming season. When he does, he’ll be the first member of his 1992 draft class to hit the milestone. Hamrlik will also be in some pretty exclusive company, joining other active defensemen who have reached the 1,200 game mark, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider, Darryl Sydor and Rob Blake.
Since he still has 43 games to go before hitting the mark, the 1998 Nagano Olympics gold medalist will hit the ice in Montreal and continue to do what he does best: whatever it takes. Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
Read alsoSeason preview: Maxim Lapierre Season preview: Tomas Plekanec Season preview: Josh Gorges Season Preview: Guillaume Latendresse My Ultimate Foursome: Brian Gionta 2009-10 Schedule