Dawson Hamilton’s spot on hockey’s tapestry

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Matty Duchene - special bond. Photo By Terrance Gavan


By Terrance Gavan

We wonder if Matt Duchene’s skyward glance in his rookie season – just before scoring the shootout goal that propelled the Colorado Avalanche into the 2010 playoffs – was noticed by anyone in that packed arena.

Probably not.

It was, after all, almost imperceptible; a short peek to the rafters; a negligible nod.

The short reverie was followed immediately by a narrowed gaze, a quick as slick two-step jump, and a disjointed drive to the net, where a warm body waited. In vain.

Paydirt and raucous celebration replaced any memory of that subtle flirt with heavenly inspiration.

Matt Duchene’s glance can no longer be ignored. Like Babe Ruth’s finger pointing beyond the fence; Broadway Joe Namath’s bold guarantee of a Super Bowl win; and Ali’s deft poetic dis’ of Sonny Liston; Duchene’s gilt-edged gaze skyward now lives, immortalized by an eloquent piece of high def imagery that was shown across the nation during a Hockey Night in Canada telecast last Saturday.

That shootout goal stamped Duchene’s ticket to stardom and propelled the 18-year-old rookie into the upper echelon ofNHLfranchise players. The replay of that goal will now live forever as a testament to the short, brave life of Minden’s Dawson Hamilton.

CBC’s Inside Hockey put together a stunning four-minute video that encapsulated with grace and eloquence the collision of two souls. That snapshot also enlivened a community of Highlanders who got a chance to revisit the inclusiveness of a village.

We don’t know how many trophies young Matthew Duchene has collected over the years. We will assume that it is not more than, or even close to, 890.

That’s a special number, because it’s the number of bravery beads that Dawson Hamilton collected from the Ontario’s Sick Kid’s Hospital though his short and heroic life. The necklaces strung with bravery beads were amassed in a very tight span. He was diagnosed with leukemia at age five and he was buried in his favorite Colorado Avalanche jersey, signed by his good friend Matt, when he was 9, just 13 days before his tenth birthday.

Do the math. That’s over 170 bravery beads per year. The beads are given for every significant medical procedure performed and for every holiday a child spends away from home in Sick Kids.

Dawson and Matt bonded while Duchene was still a member of the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. Dawson became a fixture in the dressing room. An indelible friendship formed between Matt and Dawson and it continued through Matt’s transition to theNHL.

You might surmise that young Dawson Hamilton got dealt a bad hand.

You’d be wrong.

Dawson Hamilton was loved; he had dreams; he had a special family, a brother, and he had many admirers. And Dawson Hamilton also had the unconditional love of a true friend.

Dawson Hamilton helped us realize that life is not offered on our terms. Dawson taught us to push on, and he helped us to remember that life is here to be tasted, not wasted in the wallow of a dreary daily drudge.

Dawson reminded us to be happy. Just that. Be happy. Because Dawson was happy.

In spite of those seemingly insurmountable days and those bravery beads. And those holidays spent in a cancer ward.

Matt Duchene explained in the video that when he turned his head to the rafters before that crucial shootout, he was asking his friend Dawson Hamilton for help.

Dawson Hamilton died on Jan. 10, 2010. He was 9, and his life slipped by just 13 days before his 10th birthday. Matt scored that goal in April.

Via that video Matt remembered the days following Dawson’s passing.

“I got a call from someone I know in Haliburton and she told me that she had visited Dawson’s open casket,” Duchene says. “She told me that he was wearing his Colorado Avalanche jersey.”

Matt Duchene got his coach’s permission to attend the funeral in Minden.

“You never really know how much of an impact you’ve had on someone’s life until something like that happens,” says Duchene. “The strength that you gain from knowing someone like that is something that’s very intangible; and he had as big an impact on me as I had on him.”

Today, Matt Duchene never plays a game, without his buddy at his side.

“I have one of Dawson’s initials on my stick,” smiles Duchene. “It’s like I have a little guardian angel with me.”

Dawson’s dad, Scott Hamilton says that Matt Duchene has helped him live with the loss.

“When I see Matt play hockey… every time, I’m thinking of Dawson.”

And now? So will we.