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PRINCIPE: No Walk in the Park

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

Ryan Hamilton was out walking his dog and also had his newborn in a stroller. He decided to give his wife a little break and, at the same time, decided to go old school. He didn't bring his phone. His short stroll also ended up being about 90 minutes as he ran into some people. What Ryan didn't know was that Gerry Fleming, the OKC Barons interim coach, was desperately trying to reach him. After Hamilton was unreachable, Brad Hunt became a part of it all as he left his apartment and did something no one else could do and that's find his teammate. Hunt offered the winger his phone saying, “you need to call Gerry.” And so he did. Hamilton wasn't in trouble. The news was good, in fact, it was great. He was called up by Edmonton.


Photo by Getty Images.
You can't make that up and you also can't make up the road that Ryan Hamilton has traveled. An Oshawa, Ontario born player who had a long and winding road to what happened on Tuesday night when he scored his first NHL goal. He was undrafted and has played in a lot of leagues for a lot of teams. There was Burnaby of the BCHL, Moose Jaw of the WHL, Barrie of the OHL. His junior career led him to Houston, Toronto and Oklahoma City in the AHL. There was time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers before his most memorable moment in hockey.

At the 10:17 mark of period number one in the Oilers 55th game of the season, and the 15th game of his NHL career, Hamilton scored goal number one. A tip off a shot from Nail Yakupov squeaked through Jaroslav Halak. It was a dream come true for a young man who never stopped dreaming.

Hamilton celebrates his first career NHL goal (Photo by Getty Images)
After the game, Todd Nelson tracked down his former Barons standout to congratulate him on his first NHL goal. Nelson didn't know it was his first and Todd, I'm with you on that. Who knew? Hamilton knew and he had the puck with '1st NHL goal' written on it to prove it. Ryan, getting that goal at the age of 29. He'll be 30 on April 15th. There are many hockey careers that are ended by then, but for Hamilton this could be a start. Maybe better, a continuation of his dedication to the game and not letting go. We never like our athletes to hang around past their due date but it's so much different with those that won't leave until they accomplish what they set out to do.

This is a person and a story you can't help but cheer for in applauding Ryan Hamilton's perseverance. After his goal, we spoke to him on Sportsnet. His birth certificate looked more like a 1995 born player because he was acting like a giddy teenager, but just for a moment. After letting himself go for about 30 seconds, he thanked his parents and ended the interview. He had to get back in the room and get himself ready for the 3rd period. A two-sided athlete showing his personal and professional demeanour all in one.

In the end, the last ever game for Edmonton at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a heartbreaker. A one-goal loss in a game in which the Oilers deserved better. A memorable way to end a rivalry and an unforgettable moment for an Edmonton Oiler whose long journey to his first NHL goal was no walk in the park.
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