EDMONTON, AB - At the beginning of the 2001 Edmonton Oilers season, Al Hamilton stood near centre ice of Northlands Coliseum and watched with pride as his number 3 jersey was retired, marked by a banner that made its celebrated journey to the rafters. It took its well-deserved place as the first Edmonton Oilers jersey number to be hung in the storied arena. Hamilton probably had hundreds of thousands of memories racing through his mind of his days as a rugged defenceman known for his uncanny leadership.
But then, as he strolled off the ice to revered applause, the man widely known as "Hammy" started another chapter in his hockey career, opening its first page the same way he played the game: always looking ahead. Making things happen.
The Al Hamilton trademark.
Video: COMMUNITY | Al Hamilton Scholarship
To honour his legacy as a leader, the Oilers Alumni Association created the Al Hamilton Scholarship that has since provided thousands of dollars for young people to turn their post-secondary schooling dreams into technicolor realities.
This year's scholarship winners, Blair Grimes and Amy Jakubec, joined Hamilton for a special presentation at Rogers Place earlier this week; a presentation that fittingly took place Thanksgiving Monday before the Oilers faced-off against the Winnipeg Jets.
"It's a tremendous honour to have such a scholarship named after me," Hamilton said this week. "I think it's wonderful the Oilers Alumni Association funds the scholarship so we can help youth across Northern Alberta. We look for how they do in their academics, their participation in sports and beyond."
Also considered is their community contribution, something Hamilton himself has demonstrated over the years and continues to do.
For Grimes, it was a teacher and a coach that encouraged her to apply for the Al Hamilton scholarship.
"I was inspired by the criteria to look into Al Hamilton's career, values, as well as the awards criteria and values. I discovered that commitment to athletics, academics, and community were of high importance to this award and as well to myself which is why I decided to apply," she said.
After graduating from Lillian Osborne High School in Edmonton, Grimes, 18, is in her first year of MacEwan University's Bachelor of Science in Nursing and has her sights set on becoming a registered nurse. She also spends her spare time training and playing for Alberta Team Handball.
"This award is currently helping me focus on my studies while allowing me to put time into my training, and not have to have worry about work as a priority during the school year. Mr. Hamilton and the Oilers Alumni have demonstrated to me the importance, inspiration, and difference that giving back to the community can play in people's lives…this is a trait that I will work to reciprocate in my future as well," said Grimes.
Jakubec, a native of Viking, AB, achieved great success in athletics, being named Female Athlete of the Year at her high school for an impressive three years in a row. She's currently attending Kings University in the Bachelor of Chemistry program and will play guard for the Eagles' Women's Basketball team.
Her goal is to become a teacher and to help those who have helped her along the way.
Jakubec lives with a learning disability, but that has never held her back.
"I have been blessed to have many influential people in my life: family, friends, teachers and coaches," she said. "Each have helped mold me into the person I am today. I look forward to being that volunteer, academic or athletic inspiration to others in the future," she said.
And that describes Al Hamilton perfectly.
The Al Hamilton Scholarship is awarded annually to a student from the Greater Edmonton area for excellence in academics, athletics and community service. The value of each scholarship is $2,000 per school year to a maximum of four (4) years of post-secondary schooling, a grand total of $8,000. For more information on the scholarship, visit EdmontonOilers.com.