Smithereens can expect to see a little more of Dan Hamhuis around town in the future.
On Aug. 13, the 37-year-old Nashville Predators defencemen announced he is formally stepping away from the NHL following the team’s elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs on Aug. 12 by the Arizona Coyotes.
He told The Interior News the biggest reason for retiring now was just to spend more time with his family.
“My girls [Anna, 12, Morgan, 10, and Brooke, 8] are getting older now and I wanted to be able to spend these years with them while they’re still at home and be able to do a lot of activities that we kind of miss out on as a family because of hockey,” he said.
“To be available for family stuff, that will certainly be a priority to be involved in whatever my girls are into.”
Secondarily, he explained, he saw his career clock winding down and with his two-year contract with Nashville at its end, felt it was a good time to pull the plug.
“I probably didn’t have a lot of years left just with my body and keeping up to the pace of the game,” he said. “It was nice to be in the position I could make the decision myself and not have someone else make that decision.”
Hamhuis and Sarah, his wife, whom he met in Prince George when he was playing minor hockey with the Cougars, recently built a house in Smithers and are really looking forward to settling down full-time in the valley.
“We have a lot of connections in the community, we’ve got good friends here,” he said. “I, particularly, have a lot of family here and we just really enjoy the lifestyle that Smithers offers. We enjoy the outdoors, all the opportunities for activities, whether it’s camping, fishing, hiking, boating, it’s just really limitless and our family really enjoys that. We feel it’s a great spot for our girls to grow up.”
That being said, Hamhuis admits after 33 years in the game it will be a big adjustment for him.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was about four years old … it will be a strange feeling in a few months here, not going back,” he said.
“It’s such a challenging and fulfilling career to be a part of, I think it’s going to have some challenges stepping away from something like that, that really pushes you mentally, physically, emotionally to be your best at all times, it’s something I really grew to enjoy.”
He has no shortage of other interests to pour some energy into, though.
“That’s what I’m excited about, is trying out some new things, golf and skiing and all these activities that I haven’t spent a lot of time doing because all my focus and time has been consumed by hockey,” he said.
He also has business interests. As a part-owner of the Prince George Cougars, he is looking forward to being more involved in that enterprise, albeit not in a professional capacity.
“I haven’t put a lot of time into it in the past, just because I was playing, but this will give me an opportunity to be a little bit more involved even if it’s just going to some more games,” he said, adding the management team is fully in place
“Those guys are doing a fantastic job, so we’re going to keep things as they are. It’s not like there’s an open role that’s been waiting for me, but I look forward to just being around it a bit more, watching a few more games and learning from the guys that have been involved.”
He will also likely get more involved in the Tofino Resort and Marina, of which he is also a part-owner.
“I hope to put a little more time into learning that [business],” he said.
But for the short-term, he has no plans to go back to work. Long-term, he hasn’t ruled out a return to professional hockey.
“We’ll see down the road, when the girls are a bit older, maybe at that time I get back into some kind of role in hockey,” he said.
Aside from family, business and recreation, Hamhuis said his faith will also be a significant part of his future, although that too has a wait-and-see element to it.
“We’ve always been kind of part of the Christian community here in Smithers and done some small Bible study things with some friends and some guys in the community,” he said. “Obviously with the COVID situation, group gatherings are a little hard to come by, so we’ll see what happens there.”
While playing hockey, the chapel services offered by the Predators and Dallas Stars played a big role in keeping him going, he explained. So much so, when he got to Vancouver for a six-year contract in 2010 and found no such program, he got one going.
“It’s always been something that’s very important to me,” he said. “I was fortunate to start my career in Nashville. Our chaplain there, Pike Williams, is such a great friend and mentor to me and just seeing how important it was to have a chapel program for guys to go, and to have someone that cared about you as an individual and not as much about your performance, and to talk about life issues and marriage issues and parent issues … there’s so much that goes on on the personal side it’s nice to have a chaplain to talk to.”
Hamhuis spent 16 years in the NHL with the Predators (2003-04, 2005-10 and 2018-20), Vancouver Canucks (2010-16) and Dallas Stars (2016-18) tallying 297 assists and 59 goals in 1,148 games. This season he had eight assists in 60 games with the Preds.
In his career, the closest he came to hoisting the Stanley Cup was the 2011 series when his Canucks took the Boston Bruins to seven games, but failed to close the deal losing the final game 4-0.
He did win Olympic gold with Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Games, however.
Locally, Hamhuis has been instrumental in the success of the Celebrity Golf Tournament, which raised $125,000 for the Bulkley Valley Hospital Foundation and Smithers Community Cancer Care Team last year.
Since being picked 12th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Hamhuis has been a role model and inspiration to a generation of Smithers minor hockey players. While he has no solid plans to get involved in minor hockey in Smithers, he also hasn’t ruled it out.
“Hockey is something I’ve always enjoyed being a part of, whether it was being a player or helping guys out trying to take their game to another level,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping guys along with that, so we’ll see. There’s a lot of things I want to try and do in the first couple of years of being away from being a player in hockey, so we’ll just try to keep an open mind and see what opportunities present.”