by Todd Anderson
At the age of 29 and with 507 games played in the American Hockey League since 1997, Denis Hamel has found himself back in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators.
Speaking after his first practice since being told he made the club, Hamel couldn't hold back his smile when describing how he felt on Monday.
"This was a tough training camp, and it was my goal from the start to make the team. I worked hard all summer and lost a couple of pounds. Now my goal is to stay here the longest I can. I have to continue to work hard, have a smile on my face, and show what I can do on the rink."
After a standout season in the AHL last year in Binghamton - including 56 goals, which is tied for the eighth highest total in league history, and 91 points - Hamel carried his strong play into the Senators' pre-season this year. In seven games, Hamel scored five goals and six points.
Senators head coach Bryan Murray is convinced those numbers, plus Hamel's approach to training camp, showed he deserved a shot in the NHL this season.
"He came to camp full of vigour and he really worked hard. He's a player who is very deserving for a chance to play in this league."
Hamel say he was excited to call two special people in his life when he was given word that he would be playing with the Senators.
"I called my parents (Gilbert and Lina of Lachute, Que.) first. They've always supported me, whether it has been on a bad or good day. They were surprised and they wished me luck for the season."
There's no doubt Hamel will have a strong following when the Senators play at home this season. A large portion of his family hails from nearby Gatineau, Que.