BOSTON -- An injury to Brent Burns opened a spot in the San Jose Sharks' lineup Monday on the road against the Detroit Red Wings.
Freddie Hamilton was inserted and made his NHL debut in the Sharks' 1-0 shootout victory. With just three games on the schedule that night, there was plenty of attention given to that game as the Sharks improved to 8-0-1. One viewer in the Boston area, however, had a keener interest than most.
"No, I didn't watch," Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton snapped at a reporter Tuesday after his team practiced.
"Of course I watched," Hamilton then said with a smile on his face. "What do you think, I’m a bad brother?"
Sharks' Freddie Hamilton said he's looking forward to getting on the ice against his younger brother, Bruins' Dougie Hamilton. (Photo: Brian Babineau/NHL, Dave Reginek/NHLI)
When the Sharks face the Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden, Dougie Hamilton, younger by 18 months, won't need a television to see his older brother. Burns' injury status should continue to keep Freddie in the lineup, and barring a lineup juggle by Bruins coach Claude Julien, Dougie also will play.
It’ll be the first time the Hamilton brothers, who were teammates with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League prior to starting their pro careers, have played against each other outside of one game at a Hockey Canada World Junior Championship tryout camp a couple of years ago.
"It's pretty weird," Freddie said after the Sharks' morning skate Thursday. "This is my second game and getting to play against my brother, not only is it pretty awesome that we're both in the NHL already, but to get to play against him is pretty surreal right now."
"I think it's something we've been thinking about I guess our whole lives," Dougie Hamilton said. "I think it's obviously just exciting that it's happening and I'll probably smile at him in warm-up and just treat him like another player out there on the ice. It should be fun."
The Hamilton brothers have taken decidedly different routes to the NHL. Freddie, 21, was selected in the fifth round (No. 129) by the Sharks at the 2010 NHL Draft. He stayed with Niagara until he turned pro last season. With the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League, Freddie had 13 goals and 26 points in 76 games.
Dougie, 20, was taken by the Bruins with the ninth pick of the 2011 draft. After one more year of junior seasoning, he made the leap to the NHL last season. In 42 games with Boston, Hamilton had five goals and 16 points. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs he had three assists in seven games.
Although his younger brother has had a leg up on him in the race to establish a career at the sport's highest level, Freddie said there are no hard feelings.
"I've been completely fine with it," he said. "It’s probably almost been harder on him, kind of looking up to me growing up and he did it first. I mean, it's not bothered me one bit. Again, I'm just a proud older brother. So this is going to be a lot of fun [Thursday]."
Dougie said growing up he always watched what Freddie did and tried his best to emulate his older brother.
"I think obviously you want him to … I guess, as you're younger you want the older brother to kind of lead the way," Dougie said. "And I think that's what he was doing. For me, I just followed everything he did and I wouldn't be here without him. So I think it was tough kind of to make it to the NHL first and kind of going through that kind of stuff. But I guess easy in a way with how supportive he's been and how positive the friendship is."
The proximity of the Sharks' farm team in Worcester, Mass., to Boston has allowed Freddie and Dougie to stay close. Freddie said he's even had a chance to attend some Bruins games. While the Bruins were pursuing the Cup last June, Freddie already was into his offseason and got to marvel as Dougie stepped into the Bruins' lineup with fellow rookies Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug to help Boston beat the New York Rangers in five games in the second round.
Freddie said he never stops marveling at his brother's accomplishments.
"I've just been proud of him in everything he's done," Freddie said. "He's a great player and he's only improving."
Parents Doug and Lynn Hamilton attended Freddie's debut in Detroit. They're expected to be in Boston for the first matchup of both their sons.
"I don't think they'd miss this one," Freddie said. "It's probably pretty weird for them watching, and hopefully we'll get out on the ice a little bit together."
If the Hamilton brothers cross paths, they'll go at one another as if there was an unrelated player in their way. Off the ice, however, the relationship between the two easygoing Ontario natives has always been amicable. And it should stay that way.
"We've always been best friends," Freddie said. "I mean, there was a little fighting here and there, but not anything serious. I mean, we've both dreamed about playing against or with each other ever since we were little. So we've really … our goals have been to help each other do that. So this just makes all our hard work and helping each other pay off."