Dan Hamhuis’ immediate summer to-do list reads as follows:
-Get suits dry-cleaned - two weddings to attend
-Sort through camping gear - need firewood
-Hire a general manager – review candidates
Yep, just a regular summer on the horizon for the Vancouver Canucks defenceman and member of the Prince George Cougars’ new ownership group.
Before the 31-year-old Smithers, BC, product was patrolling the blueline for the Canucks, he played four years in the Western Hockey League for the Cougars. From 1998-2002 Hamhuis called Prince George home; he scored 34 goals and had 123 assists for 157 points in 247 games, but more importantly, he fell in love with the community.
The people - fans, billets and townsfolk alike - all welcomed the hesitant 15-year-old with open arms and he still gets chills thinking of the passion they displayed for Cougars hockey.
Reigniting the team, which has missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and five of the last seven years, will reignite the city and that’s a major part of the reason Hamhuis is now a part of the ownership group.
“I remember the first game I played there, when the national anthem was on and everyone stood up,” recalled Hamhuis. “I was just completely overwhelmed with how many people were in that building and how loud it was, the buzz around the city was electric and it was a really cool environment to play in.
“Unfortunately the excitement has fallen off over the last 10 years, but there’s so many people that want it to work. I want to be able to bring it back to an environment that I got to play in front of for all these young guys out there because it’s a great market to play in and it hasn’t been lately.
“I want to get it back to that and just to be involved in the careers of young players is a special privilege; to influence them and help them become good junior players and good pro players is a thrill.”
Hamhuis is a staple on Vancouver’s defence and that remains his main priority and primary focus. His in-season role with Prince George won’t be hands on, instead Hamhuis will act as the team’s biggest supporter from a distance and weigh-in on things as needed.
His opinion is being used right now as the new management team, including former Cougars defenceman and current Tampa Bay Lightning d-man Eric Brewer, aim to fill the team’s void at general manager.
Whoever they hire will have an exciting opportunity with a team looking to turn around its program, backed by passionate investors dedicated to a healthy team and community.
Hamhuis always hoped he’d have a chance to reunite with the Cougars and when it came right down to it, the situation was perfect for getting involved.
“Right now when this one came up, the timing was excellent for me with the position I’m in, knowing more about what kinds of things I want to invest in and be a part of. The right people approached me, it’s a good group and we’ve got a solid foundation now.
“I’m looking forward to contributing by sharing my experiences in being in the dressing room, being a player in junior and then a pro and sharing some of my contacts I have throughout the league, so that’s a fun way to be involved and contribute right now.”