Every once in a while, there is a “feel good” sports story that warms the depths of one’s heart. Surely, all of us can think of at least one feel good sports story that they were able to see. Many times these stories are the reason why most sports fans are fans. In this age where every sports story is being sold to today’s average sports fan as one of these stories, often times these stories are exaggerated. However, it pleases me to say that what's going on with the Ottawa Senators right now might very well be on its way to being etched in today’s sports fan’s eyes as one of those feel good sports stories.
Flashback to December 8th 2014, things were looking bleak at best for the Ottawa Senators. They were in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and fired their coach Paul Maclean. Fast forward to January 8th 2015, you would think new year new Senators, well not exactly. The Senators were still in 11th place and 8 points back of a playoff spot under interim coach Dave Cameron. That unfortunately would not be where the disappointment ended. By February 8th 2015, the Ottawa Senators were in the basement of the league, sitting in 14th place and 14 points back of a playoff spot, and quite frankly, it looked like they would stay there.
Senator fans were disgruntled and frustrated and who could blame them. It would take a miracle of near biblical proportions for the Senators to close a 14 point gap and make the playoffs and that is not an exaggeration. The Senators would be the first team to come back from 14 points out of a playoff spot since the NHL moved towards a conference based playoff format in the 1993-94… I was not even born yet.
Here’s the funny part, sometimes inexplicable things happen in life and by the morning of March 24th, 2015, a miracle happened, the senators sit in 8th place with 10 games remaining. Now every hockey fan who follows the NHL knows exactly why this happened, but for those who do not, you are probably wondering what happened, let me go back through the last month and a bit to explain the tale of the Hamburglar.
The current number one goalie for the senators is rookie goaltender, Andrew Hammond. Andrew Hammond is not your typical rookie turned starter in the same year goalie. He’s 27 years young, and at one point in time, quit the game of hockey as a teenager. What’s even more interesting about Hammond is that his resume as a starting goaltender in college, and even in minors, was not very good. Although he was named the team MVP twice at Bowling Green University, he was an abysmal 30-68- 13, and his record as a starter for the Ottawa senators affiliate, the Birmingham Senators 25-19-3.
I mean those numbers make you wonder how he could have, one be signed to a 2 year entry level deal with the Senators, and two, be called up to the Ottawa senators. Well both Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson got hurt, so in came Andrew Hammond and the rest was history.
His first five games went so well that it border on hilarity due to the fact that he had the Hamburglar on his mask (His former teammate Wade Finnegan told the National post that he was given the nickname “The Hamburglar” by his teammates at Bowling Green for his ability to “steal games”). People did not take his impressive run seriously at first, and quite frankly, when he suffered his first lost in overtime, I thought "The Hamburglar" run had reached its end.
Boy was I ever wrong and the Hamburglar Andrew Hammond has not looked back.
Andrew Hammond has won 9 straight starts since then and is among historic company for the best start to his season. The million dollar question (which he does not make) is how is Andrew Hammond doing this, I do not know. Maybe he figured something out in the minors, maybe he sprinkles fairy dust on himself every game, but whatever he does, its working. What I do know is many people are rooting for him. In fact, it has gotten to the point where Andrew Hammond is allowed to have free McDonald’s for life (the Hamburglar is a McDonald's character the McDonald's franchise would feature on cups) and hamburgers are being thrown on the ice.
Anyway the result of Andrew “The Hamburglar’s” Hammond’s impressive run right now is that the senators have gone from 14 points out of the playoffs and hopeless, to having a playoff spot and a game in hand over the Boston Bruins. This is all thanks to a 27-year old rookie from out of nowhere breathing life into a dead team in the span of a month and two weeks. This is something one would make a movie out of and that is no joke. Unfortunately for Andrew Hammond and the Ottawa Senators, the story is not finished. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the Bruins will not quietly miss the playoffs and could very well reclaim their playoff spot back.
On the other hand, Andrew Hammond can continue to be historic and bring the Ottawa Senators to the promise land. Whether one is a Senators fan, a Bruins fan, or indifferent, the point is this story could either be a feel good story that we can tell our kids someday or this can be a minor footnote in NHL history and it all depends on if the Senators can hold off the Boston Bruins and keep their playoff spot. What will happen, I do not know, however, it is times like these why majority of sports fans watch sports.