While Andrew Hammond's rookie season between the pipes for the Binghamton Senators has been good for him, he continues to strive towards making a name for himself in the NHL. As the AHL’s regular season winds down, Hammond has been credited with over 20 wins and has been called up twice to Ottawa. On February 27 he got his first taste of NHL action.
“I think every time you get called up, you’re a little surprised because you don't want to expect something that might not happen,” said Hammond. “I learned this year that anything can happen.”
Hammond made the most of his debut, playing over 30 minutes and making 11 saves in a 6-1 loss for the Senators.
“Getting the call to go up to Ottawa the first time was very exciting and a dream come true,” said Hammond. “Especially to play in my first game and then... well, it's a lot of emotions, but you don't want to get overwhelmed by everything that is surrounding the experience.”
Even with the unexpected thrust on to the NHL stage, Hammond believes he has been a steady goaltender through it all. “It's normal the first few games in a new league to be a little jittery,” he says. “Once you get into the game, get that first shot and make your first save, you realize it's the same game, and you’re there for a reason. Just keep playing the same way that got you there.”
Hammond became a goaltender during a street hockey game back in his hometown of White Rock, BC. His brother and friends allowed him to play on the condition he was in nets. Once on the ice, Hammond flipped between goalie and a player, eventually realizing that stopping the puck was what he wanted to do.
“It's difficult for me to compare [between NHL and AHL play],” said Hammond. “I haven't been around long enough to truly experience what it's like to be an NHL goalie on a day-to-day basis. It’s a full step up and it takes about 20 games to figure out what things are going to be successful each night. All you can do is prepare yourself each day and make sure you’re playing as well as you can down here. Hopefully when you get called, you’re able to step in, be assertive, and be a contributor.”
“At first [with Binghamton] I was little over aggressive and thought I could make the first saves, no matter what,” said Hammond. “I learned that the players are so good at these higher levels that you need to let the play come to you and be more patient and just try to protect the net and not try to do too much. I tried to simplify my game and lately I’m seeing good results.”
Hammond takes some shots to warm-up and to be able to see the pucks properly in his pre-game skates and during practices. The AHL Binghamton games are on the weekends meaning four or more days without any game action. He spends his off-time with his fiancée and their two dogs. “You fall a bit out of the groove,” he says. “You realize how tough it is, it puts it into perspective, so many games in a certain amount of time. Take care of yourself, plan, and hopefully get to go to the next level.”
Hammond remains focused on his role today and to the team, like communication. “There’s not an overwhelming amount of talk, but that’s good.”
“A lot of it revolves around the goalie and the defenceman; puck exchanges and playing the puck behind the net. If I tried to play defence at most levels, I probably wouldn't make it. I got here playing a goalie, but that also doesn't mean I can't help out whatever way I can. Everyone is open-minded; what’s discussed is for the betterment of the team.”
Hammond feels that a goalie is the backbone of the team. Someone who can be level headed, has a long fuse, and who is not easily frustrated or rattled. The hope is that attitude can spread throughout the team.
If all works out, it becomes a recipe for success and with each game perhaps, playing in the NHL becomes a little closer to reality.
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