EDMONTON – Dougie Hamilton wants to set the record straight.
He’s not a huge fan of museums.
“Not really,” chuckled the Hurricanes defenceman following Sunday morning skate in Edmonton.
Too bad, as the 25-year-old was welcomed to Raleigh last summer with invites to several galleries.
Making his return to Alberta for the first time since the summer blockbuster that saw him traded by Calgary to Carolina, Hamilton knows he’ll be the focal point Monday when his squad practices in Calgary.
However, on Sunday the towering Toronto native respectfully addressed questions surrounding a swap dripping in innuendo over his conduct as a reclusive teammate and questioning his character.
As one broadcaster famously suggested when asked about Hamilton being a bit of an outlier: while teammates went to lunch, he went to the museum.
“For me I know the truth behind everything,” said Hamilton, exhibiting tremendous poise and class while answering questions he’d likely expected for months.
“I know what you guys have to do in the media, especially in Canada.
“I don’t know if I was hurt. It’s just a thing that’s out there with, I guess, the museums. I’ve gotten some free passes to some museums in Raleigh now, so, ya.
“It is what it is. It’s not true, so I just try to laugh at it and believe in myself and who I am as a person.”
He can chuckle about it now, as time heals.
But as a voracious reader, it would have been understandable if Hamilton chose to blow off a pair of enquiring minds from Calgary, much like he did out of frustration when his brother/teammate Freddie was waived by the Flames.
Hamilton continues to grow.
Given how hard goals were to come by in Calgary last season, many found it hard to come to grips with including Hamilton as the centerpiece in the five-player trade that included Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.
His 17 goals led all NHL blueliners last season, prompting puzzled fans to easily buy in to a narrative that suggested he was bad for chemistry in the room or that he wanted out.
On Sunday, Hamilton said he didn’t, despite reports he skipped season-ending exit meetings.
“It’s not my choice – I had a six-year deal with Calgary and it’s not like I’m a free agent and my choice to leave,” said the soft-spoken Hamilton, four years into a six-year, $34.5 million deal.
“At the end of the day it comes down to management.
I enjoyed my time in Calgary and I’m enjoying a new chapter here. It’s been fun to experience something new.”
Was he expecting to be traded?
“I mean, I was in a lot of rumours – I think they just built up and built up, so as it was coming down to it it was starting to become probable with all the rumours and stuff,” said the six-foot-six, 210-pound gentle giant.
“I had no idea where I was going to go. I just found out watching on TV. I came home from a workout on the second day of the draft, turned the TV on and saw the two teams pop up and thought ‘maybe this is me.’
“And it was.
“Then the phone started ringing. I had no idea what was going to happen before that.”
The way the Flames’ fortunes have turned since the trade, it’s easy to suggest the Flames wound up winning the deal.
Lindholm has helped bolster the top line to elite status, raise Johnny Gaudreau’s game to Hart-levels and lift the Flames to tops in the west.
Hanifin’s youth, competency and upside are tantalizing, while T.J. Brodie has seamlessly replaced Hamilton on the top duo.
Both are locked in at sub-$5 million cap hits for six years.
In terms of statistics, the Flames lead the deal in goals (25-19) assists (47-22) points (72-41) and plus minus (plus-38 to minus-7).
The ‘Canes are happy with Ferland’s grit and offensive contributions on the top line, but are in tough to sign the pending free agent who may have priced himself out of Raleigh.
Hamilton is ninth in team scoring with six goals and 16 points, posting a minus-13 rating.
Trade rumours, which have surrounded him the bulk of his career, are swirling once again as his club lags behind in the wild card race.
“Well, they’re still there so…it is what it is,” said Hamilton of the endless chatter linking him to various destinations.
“I think I’ve been in trade rumours for I don’t know how many years now, so it doesn’t really matter to me. You just play. You can’t control any of that stuff.”
Hamilton said he wasn’t hurt or angry by the June trade out of Calgary.
“Whenever there’s change you’ve got to look at the bright side, and look forward to something new and be positive about it,” said Hamilton.
“I think it’s tough if you’re going to be upset about what happened. Just know it’s going to be a big change and you’ve got to find new places to be in a new city and teammates and everything.
“For me it was middle of summer so I had time to digest it.
“It was definitely weird not going back to Calgary in September and going to Raleigh and it being hot and sweaty. I was excited about the opportunity to go to a team that gave up what they did to get me.”
After all, he has been through all of it before when he was traded at age 21 by a Boston club that drafted him ninth overall in 2011.
“It’s a little different, I think I’m older now and kind of been through some stuff, been through a trade and stuff like that,” said Hamilton, still unsure what to expect when he hits the Saddledome ice Tuesday.
“I got booed (in Boston) pretty bad the first game back. We came on a back-to-back so I didn’t have too much time to see anyone. We got in late and then played that day. So it’s kind of unique that we’ll have a practice in Calgary and see some guys (Monday).
“It’s definitely a weird feeling but I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be fun. I mean, the team is doing great obviously, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
His head is sure to be swirling with reminders of a productive three-year stint in which his offence improved every season.
“Just a lot of good feelings, when you think about it,” he said of Calgary.
“I lived my childhood dream of playing with my brother in the NHL. Played with a lot of great players. Made a lot of good friendships, in the dressing room and outside the dressing room with just regular people in the city and the hospitals and stuff like that. Just a lot of good memories. It’s going to be cool.”
Much cooler than museums.