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Defend Like Dougie

By Jamie MacDonald, Special to Mass Hockey, 03/04/15, 2:30PM EST


Budding Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton talks about overcoming adversity, the best advice he's ever received and tips for young players.

Credit: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Dougie Hamilton ranks fourth among Bruins in ice time and he leads the team in scoring among defensemen. We recently caught up with the 21-year-old, and he talked about overcoming adversity, the best advice he’s ever received and some tips through the eyes of an NHL defenseman.

Loving the Game

Mass Hockey: What do you love about being a defenseman? When did you decide that's what you wanted to concentrate on being?

Dougie Hamilton: “I actually played a year and a half at forward, around the time I was 13, and I kind of had fun with that, then went back to being a defenseman and stuck with it from there. I like being able to see everything in front of me and I tend to take pride in making good passes out of my own end and things like that. That's one of the things that makes it fun.”

Remember the Fundamentals

Mass Hockey: Physically, defensemen come in all shapes and sizes. But there are some things that aren't negotiable, such as fundamentals. What kinds of things does everyone as a defenseman have to do?

Dougie Hamilton: “Obviously, positioning, defensively, I think that's really important. Fundamentally, I think it's important for everyone to be a good skater, and be able to move the puck and make good passes.”

Mass Hockey: The days of coaches putting the least agile kids on defense are over, aren’t they?

Dougie Hamilton: “As a young player and even in minor hockey, there are a lot of teams that have four defensemen and three lines. You were able to play every other shift and you're able to skate with the puck and things like that. That's obviously going to help a player out a lot. I think it's important for young defensemen to join the rush and then be able to make plays and not just kind of sit back. At the same time, work on your skating and offensive skills, as well.”

Mass Hockey: What is a good tip for working on your skating?

Dougie Hamilton: “I think it's important to do stuff away from your team practices, kind of on your own. I've worked with my dad, and [on] power skating in the summer with my brother. We work on our stride, and our edges and things like that.”

Getting Noticed

Mass Hockey: How can you get noticed as a defensemen … in a good way?

Dougie Hamilton: “Obviously, it's easy to blame the defenseman on a goal if you're the last man back. If you make a mistake, it's on you. As a defenseman, it's about making good passes and not getting out of position – and picking the right time to join the play. [Sometimes] not being noticed as a defenseman is a good thing. There's some guys you don't see them in a game, but they come out of it with a lot of minutes, don't make a mistake and their team wins. That's a good thing.”

Mass Hockey: How long a memory can you afford to have after something goes wrong and the puck winds up in the back of your net?

Dougie Hamilton: “It's obviously learning from mistakes and realizing your mistakes, moving forward and trying to be positive. You kind of have to put a lid on it, put it away from you after it happens. Worry about the next shift. It's more about knowing players and knowing tendencies and knowing what they're going to do.”

Talk, Talk, Talk

Mass Hockey: How important is it to talk to your teammates on the ice?

Dougie Hamilton: “It's really important. Just being able to talk and know where people are on the ice, I think it makes [the game] so much easier. You don't have a lot of time and you can't really see things, so, if you hear somebody talk, you can trust them and you're able to make the play. Playing defense, it makes it easier just communicating, knowing who has who and making sure you're in the right spot on the ice.”

Mass Hockey: What kinds of things are said on the ice?

Dougie Hamilton: “Just moving the puck up, you're telling guys, 'Up! Up!' or 'Over' or 'I got him,' just stuff like that. 'I'm here, I'm here!' I guess it's easy to pick up that kind of stuff – right away, you know what's going on.”

Mass Hockey: Any specific tips for when players aren’t talking?

Dougie Hamilton: “Going back for pucks, I think that's one of the hardest things – you can't see what's behind you. A lot of coaches, when you're young, teach you looking over your shoulder before you get the puck. That allows you to see what's going on behind you and where guys are. Anything to make the game easier.”

Situational Awareness – Shots, Pinching and Breakouts

Mass Hockey: When and how do you get shots to the net from the point?

Dougie Hamilton: “I think it's about moving your feet, having your head up and making a quick shot. Those are the three things you really need to focus on – moving your feet to get in a good position, maybe using a fake, having your head up to be able to see that, and, when you have a lane, making a quick shot.

Mass Hockey: When do you know when to pinch on an opponent’s breakout?

Dougie Hamilton: “I think that's one of the things you have to learn and trust your instincts. You have to see who's behind you and in front of you. At the same time, it depends on the situation in the game. You're not going to pinch when you're up a goal. You may when you need a goal. You just kind of read and react.”

Mass Hockey: What are some of the things to remember while you’re breaking out of your own zone?

Dougie Hamilton: “Again, moving your feet, coming back hard and getting your head up. Making a simple play. I think it's pretty important to just make the first pass – the simple, simple play.”

Pay it Forward

Mass Hockey: What's the best advice anyone has given you?

Dougie Hamilton: “To believe in yourself. That's one of the things I've held with me. I think that's what I'd tell a kid, and also just to have fun. It's about believing in yourself and always trying to improve and get better. One of the things I learned from Jarome Iginla last year in playing with him is that he had more than 500 goals and he was still working on his shot. That's one of the things that I took from him. As a young kid, I think it's just about improving and trying to get better and believing in yourself.”