WORCESTER - Freddie Hamilton was always the older brother, and enjoyed a long run of dominance when it came to competing with younger brother Dougie in any sporting arena. It didnt matter what sport they were playing or whether it was in the backyard or one of many old barns in Ontario.
And the Hamilton brothers participated in plenty of sports as the two sons of an Olympic rower father and Olympic basketball player mother. They actually met during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
But regardless of their parents athletic pedigree, it was the typical brotherly relationship until Dougie sprouted up to a formidable 6-foot-5 as a teenager, and Freddie collided with him a few times while going head-to-head in the World Junior Orientation Camp for Team Canada. Freddie realized at that point that maybe the older brother doesnt always automatically win by default.
At World Junior camp the last couple of years weve played against each other. It was pretty strange. I think pretty immediately in the first game we played against each other the puck went into the corner and we hit each pretty hard, said Freddie. Growing up I was always taller than him, but once he hit that growth spurt in the OHL it made it a lot more difficult for me to handle him.
As an older brother Im obviously really proud of him and Ive tried to help him out. To see him doing so well is really exciting for me too. Hes been really good his whole life, but he was kind of small for a little bit. But he kept working at it and things are happening for him now. Seeing his progression from really good to maybe the best defenseman outside of the NHL has been special.
Fortunately Freddie and Dougie Hamilton have largely played together rather than against each other during their equally accomplished hockey careers including the last three years as members of the OHLs Niagara IceDogs. While Dougie is still in Niagara skating for the IceDogs while waiting for the NHL lockout to end, Freddie has begun his pro hockey career this season with the AHLs Worcester Sharks.
The 20-year-old topped 30 goals and 80 points in each of the last two seasons with the IceDogs, and has three assists and a minus-1 in his first seven games with Worcester this year. Thats a pretty good start for the 2010 Sharks fifth round draft pick after his four outstanding OHL seasons, and continues to provide clues to the San Jose brass as to what hell be after fully developing his game.
While he may not score with that kind of frequency after making the significant jump to the American Hockey League, Hamilton projects to be a bottom six forward with offensive upside in the San Jose organization. The on-ice relationship between the two brothers could end up very similar to the track of the Niedermayer brothers: hard-working energy forward Rob and Hall of Fame-caliber defenseman Scott captured the Stanley Cup over the course of their careers.
Its been so far, so good for young Freddie as he embarks on that working mans forward role with the Sharks.
I think Im getting more comfortable as the season has gone along. This league is much better than the OHL, said Freddie. Its a lot faster with stronger players. Everybody is much smarter as well. It takes a little bit of an adjustment, but the summer camp in San Jose certainly helps as well.
I pride myself on being a smart player and I always get better as I get used to whatever circumstance that Im in. Im definitely looking to continue to improve all season.
But Freddie is hopeful it wont be too long before hes up with the San Jose Sharks at the NHL level, and that will mean potential brotherly showdowns with Dougie after he joins up with the Bruins. Its expected Hamilton is going to make Bostons roster this year once the NHL season begins after the NHL and CHL made special lockout provisions for a group of elite junior hockey players once the lockout is over.
Despite those assurances for Bostons bright defenseman prospect, Freddie has felt his little brothers antsy feelings when theyve spoken over the phone something the close siblings do very often while hundreds of miles apart from each other.
We talk every day. He follows my games every day and I follow his, said Freddie. Even though were not together we still help each other out and give each other pointers when he can. Its definitely been a little different being apart though.
One other thing Freddie couldnt help: the older sibling envisioned future matchups against Dougie when his Worcester Sharks to the ice against the Providence Bruins on Friday night and took home a 3-2 win at the Dunkin Donuts Center despite a scoreless effort from Freddie. Just seeing the Black and Gold Bruins sweaters made Freddie realize the hockey dream shared by the two brothers is that much closer to reality no matter which of them gets to the NHL first.
Meanwhile Dougie has 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in 17 games for the IceDogs this year while he essentially sits and waits for the NHL to figure things out.
Its a little cool that my brother is with them and hes been to some camps with the Bruins, said Freddie. Dougie is hoping that the lockout ends soon. He wants to get up to Boston and prove himself there. But I think hes also done well to focus on the junior level while hes there.
We all hope the lockout ends so he gets his shot. Hes a little disappointed that things havent started up yet. Its our goal to both make the NHL and play against each other. It would be really cool. Well both push each to get there and make sure that happens. Itll be a weird experience playing against him, but it will be fun too.
Perhaps Freddie can even get back to big brother bragging rights even as Dougie has grown into what talent evaluators are calling the best defenseman currently playing outside the NHL ranks. That should be something fun to watch as their two careers intertwine over the next 10 years or more.