Born in Smithers, British Columbia, Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, has been playing hockey since he can, and sometimes cannot, remember.
“I don’t really remember a lot, but my dad said that I struggled,” recalled the 6-1, 203-pound defenseman of his first days on the ice. “I was four when I started. Because there weren’t enough kids to make teams for the four, five, and six year olds, my first year was intimidating. As a four-year old I was playing with eight-year olds.”
Even if his first years were not ideal for a young boy starting out, Hamhuis believes they were good for him.
“It eventually helped me. By the time I was eight I was used to playing against the bigger and older guys. I think it helped my development.”
Coming from an athletic family, Hamhuis is the only one to make it to the professional ranks.
“Everybody kind of plays, but no one played pro hockey or anything,” said Hamhuis of his family. “My dad is a pretty natural athlete, that’s probably where I got a lot of my athletic ability from. He always played senior hockey.”
The boys are not the only members of the Hamhuis household to lace up the skates, however.
“My sisters still play – they play in the women’s league in Smithers right now.”
As he got older, he went on to play his last four years of minor hockey with the Smithers Storm. Smithers is a small town of just over 5,000 people that falls into the Omineca district of the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association, more commonly known as BC Hockey. Founded in 1919, BC Hockey is a non-profit organization and member branch of Hockey Canada in charge of governing amateur hockey at all levels in British Columbia and Yukon Territory.
Hamhuis got his first taste of success with the Storm.
“It was a good memory,” said Hamhuis of his time with the Storm. “We went to provincials all four years that we qualified. Our team went to the provincial finals our last year and won it in overtime.”
Little did he know at the time that he would be in the company of his Predators teammate, Shea Weber
, and current Nashville prospect, Cody Franson.
“It was in Sicamous – Weber’s hometown,” said Hamhuis of the tournament. “Shea was one of the stick boys, but not for our team. Cody Franson was the stick boy for our team and Weber was a stick boy for one of the other teams.”
Weber also recalls the Storm’s trip to Sicamous.
“I remember Smithers was there. Cody Franson was the stick boy for their team. It was an exciting experience for us young kids to get to meet players from other towns. It was a big sporting event for a small city,” said Weber of his hometown of just over 3,000 people. “When I got drafted by Nashville I looked at the roster a little bit and I recognized his name. We figured he was at the tournament which was cool and now down the road we’re here together.”
When Hamhuis was 15 years old, he left home to play junior hockey for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
“I went to play juniors so I did grades 11 and 12 while I played on the junior team. I played four years there,” Hamhuis said. “Prince George is a bigger city with about 80,000 people there. It was the closest junior team to us.”
Moving to such a bigger city can be unnerving. Luckily, it wasn’t too long of a trip for his parents.
“It’s a four-hour drive from my hometown so it was pretty easy for my parents to come and watch compared to other teams in the league. It was nice for them to always be there, especially the first couple years being away from home.”
It would be safe to say that Hamhuis enjoyed his days at Prince George. His years with the Cougars were filled with many great moments.
“There are too many to count,” Hamhuis said. “We had a lot of fun there. The coach let us have fun as long as we came to play and we did that.”
But among all his memories on the ice, the one that sticks out above the rest came off it.
“I met my wife at Prince George right away. The first year I got there we met so that worked out well for me.”
It seems that hockey has worked out well for Hamhuis, too.