Hammer-ing the Predators: Do UFAs usually zing their former team?

When an unrestricted free agent leaves one team for another, is there any sort of code of honor players follow when speaking to the media in the new city about their old playing grounds?

Atomic Pope/Flickr

The recent comments made by now Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis about Nashville as a (non traditional) hockey market has raised the question. It also has left some Nashville fans with a sour feeling about the defenseman who was a pillar of the community while playing six years in Nashville after being drafted in the first round by the Predators in 2001.

Hamhuis stung Nashville a couple of times since leaving the team, signing a 6 year deal with the Canucks. First there was the Canadian Press story stating how excited he was to be in a place where he would no longer be anonymous. Ok, fair enough. But in the same interview, Hamhuis also stated that he looked forward to getting out of the first round of the playoffs, as if he had no role at all in the fate of his former team’s 5 playoff appearances in six years.

But then, on July 7th, the Vancouver Canucks held their annual Summer Summit where team officials talk about the upcoming year. Hamhuis was in attendance and when asked about the couple thousand fans in attendance stated that it was like a November home game in Nashville. Burn. And ouch. While it is not a secret that Predators attendance goes up after the Titans stop playing, it is also unfair and wrong to continue this false sense up north that Nashville doesn’t support their team and that hockey has no place in Tennessee.

Some people speculate that Hammer’s words were taken out of context. Watch for yourself and decide:

That said, how did other players, switching teams talk about their former teams in the new cities media outlets?

Since Predators goalie Dan Ellis signed with Tampa Bay on July 1st, he’s been all over the media on TSN in Canada and as a special guest for a podcast show done by a Lightening blogger. While in neither phone interview was Ellis asked about his time in Nashville, he only had good things to say, speaking of the talent the Preds have in Pekka Rinne as well as how the Predators organization hooked Ellis up with the Gatorade Institute to work on his conditioning issue of losing several pounds per game.

Sergei Gonchar went from the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2009, to the Ottawa Senators. Gonchar is clearly excited about having a chance to play for a Canadian team for the first time in his 15 year NHL career, stating to the Canadian Press that “Playing in Canadian cities is something that has always been special for me and now it’s going to happen for me every night, so it’s going to be special for me every night.” But the story also made it clear that re-signing with the Penguins was his first choice.

What about players leaving non-traditional hockey markets for new teams?

Colby Armstrong went from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a conference call with media in Toronto Colby talks about how excited he is to play back home in Canada, but when asked to reflect on his time with the Thrashers, Colby stated that “my wife and I fell in love with it (Atlanta)” and that “it was tough to leave” summing up with “it was a great two years. ”

And what about the newest Predators unrestricted free agent signing, Matthew Lombardi? Lombardi signed with Nashville from Phoenix and was one of the top available UFAs. In an interview with NHL.com, Lombardi stated that he “enjoyed [his] time in Phoenix”… “It’s a great place to play, I made some really good friends and it was a great opportunity for me there. It’s tough to leave, but that’s part of the business. You’ve got to move on.”

I’m sure when specifically asked about his time in Nashville, Hamhuis would offer up the standard line about really enjoying the community and being happy to have played for such a great organization, as the players highlighted in this story have done. But why go out of his way to jab at Nashville’s fans to his new fans back in British Columbia?

Other than disgruntled players who felt they were wronged by their organization, like the recent comments Ethan Moreau said about the Oilers, players typically don’t throw their team under the bus. Hopefully this will not be the start of a new trend.

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18 Comments

  1. This same BS discussion. Just knew someone would bring up my Thrashers.
    Blah, blah, blah…….
    FU.

    • Kovisignwithatlanta says:

      lol, I read this and thought finally, someone said something good about the Thrashers. Funny how people take things differently. Colby left us but he didn’t bash us and that’s more than can be said for another UFA leaving a small hockey market for a big one. See?

  2. Matt in Nashville says:

    Who cares if he is ripping the fans, the numbers (which are higher than people in Canada/Northeast of the USA think). He is speaking ill about some aspect of his former team. It wasn’t just the attendance comment that makes us Preds fans a little less than happy…. don’t get me wrong, that pisses us off too because up North you think you should take our team and move it to Hamilton or Winnipeg or cripes Halifax for that matter. Hands off. Until you’ve been to a game at the Bridgestone Arena, judge us not. So sure there were thousands of fans there, but at our Skate of the Union, which I attended, we also had over 1000 people. Maybe not the Vancouver numbers, but not bad for the middle of the summer. And remember Nashville is a team that has a fan base growing each year. We are still a new team.

    Now, it is also true that he also made a comment about being happy to finally get out of the first round of the playoffs. He had a significant role in many of our 1 and done playoff series. So that comment is also irritating.

    The point isn’t whether or not he meant to be mean. Yes he liked it here and he was a great guy in the community, doing lots of charity work. The point is, it is custom to not bash the team you just left, in jest or not. Give me one example of another player that did it. I think Amanda is right.

    • Bruce Hollingdrake says:

      Hey Matt – Thanks a lot for dropping by and taking the time to comment. The last couple of posts on Nashville that we published brought out comments from a bunch of fans. Being from Montreal (home base of The Hockey Writers) it is just terrific that the team has such a dedicated, vocal and growing fan base. It’s refreshing to hear about one of the newer clubs doing so well. We now have 2 great Preds writers with us. I hope you’ll bookmark us and come back throughout the season.

  3. Ok so take away from this article that it was written by someone who supports the Predators.

    Look at the comments from Colby Armstrong. He left Atlanta for Toronto, little hockey market to huge. He said only nice things about his time with the Thrashers. That’s the point.

    Hamhuis should be ashamed.

  4. Fear The Fangs says:

    From what I heard Hammer really wanted to stay here, so I am surprised to hear all this. Plus is doesn’t seem like him.

    On top of that he was able to play for one of his first choice teams, so it really doesn’t make sense. Maybe he was just mad to be let go at all…?

  5. I think you misunderstood his comment. He was NOT making fun of any fans. Maybe you were imagining a small, bored crowed that he referred to as “like a November game in Nashville.” What you probably are missing here is the fact that he had just walked in to a loud standing ovation from thousands of fans. He in no way was referencing the quality of the fans, just the numbers. And seeing as Nashville is near the bottom of the league for attendance (25th out of 30th in the league) I think that’s a fair remark to make.

  6. Amanda DiPaolo says:

    Please don’t misunderstand the point of the article. I’m questioning whether or not it is appropriate to be making fun of your former fans.

    As a side note, New York is a hardcore hockey market and look at the attendance for the Islanders. Chicago used to be really really bad and played in front of less than 10 000 fans per game (often much less). Chicago is a hardcore hockey market. Nashville is a new market that continues to grow every year. But again, not the point.

    To answer your question, yes 104.5 talks Preds during the summer. We also have 1000s of residents who are bored out of their minds waiting for the puck to drop. But this is also not the point.

    As a Canadian who moved to Nashville and bought season tickets just to support hockey, not the team (having grown up a Rangers fan), I was amazed at the crowds and how much Southerners knew about the game and how passionate they were about the Preds. It didn’t take long for me to drop my childhood team of over 20 years for the Predators.

    But again, the market itself isn’t the point. Making fun on the fans, now that’s what I questioned the legitimacy of.

    Thanks for reading. I hope this clarifies some misconceptions.

    • Mike Colligan says:

      I actually thought this was a great article about an angle I had never thought about very much in the past. I don’t think this was touched on yet, but I think there’s more to this than we’re seeing on the surface.

      I’ve followed the Hamhuis situation for the past year (albeit not from Nashville), and I really got the feeling he was bothered deep down that he was always playing third fiddle to Suter and Weber. The reports out of Philly prior to July 1 confirmed my suspicion (he wanted to be ‘The Man’) and I think now we’re seeing him finally enjoying his moment in the spotlight. Others commented on this already, but now we’ll see how he handles the additional pressure/scrutiny that comes along with that great responsibility.

      Taking into account this insecurity and taking a step back, he’s also in a new town trying to make a good impression by being funny with the fans. He spent his entire career with a team that justifiably didn’t want to pay him market value, and probably felt a little betrayed by that.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head, Mike. He might be in the first pairing in Vancouver, but….
        1) He lacks a powerful slap shot
        2) He makes good passes generally
        3) He doesn’t show the –along the blue line– mobility that can really stretch the defense
        4) He hasn’t particularly shown a timely knack for joining the offense
        5) He has a really good hip check that he uses somewhat sparingly
        6) He’s a pretty dependable defenseman (really good at defending odd man rushes), but not one that can stop the cycle routinely.

        Overall, he’s a second pair guy in my book, albeit a better than average one. The only difference is that Vancouver fan’s are going to be less forgiving, and he’ll get more money.

        • Right. With the obvious exceptions, when you make $4.5m as a dman, you need to be a game-changer. Hamhuis obviously hasn’t shown that yet – the question is will we see him blossom into one in an expanded role?

  7. uh, blueliner?

    2009/10 attendance (http://espn.go.com/nhl/attendance):
    canucks: 102.1
    predators: 87.5

    how many people show up for offseason season ticket dog and pony shows in nashville? do you even have those? does anyone talk about hockey on am radio? in the offseason? i don’t think you understand the difference between nashville and a hardcore hockey market.

  8. I haven’t heard about Nashville fans being upset until I read this story but I think this has been completely blown out of proportion. Hamhuis was on Team 1040 on July 1st talking about his decision to sign in Vancouver and talked quite a bit about how Nashville is a such an amazing organization to play for and although they were the only team he has ever played for other guys on the team that that he played elsewhere told him how lucky he was to be part of a special organization. He also talked about Nashville being a bit of a hidden secret because it’s not a hockey city but the team and fans treated him so well. With regards to the comment only Nashville fans can say if he was completely off base talking about how many fans there were there but I find it hard to believe that thousands of people in Nashville would spend a summer day to sit in a hockey arena to see the introduction on a second pairing defenseman and a third line centre.

  9. Even as a devout Nashville fan, I can see both sides of the argument. Hammer’s heart was always in Canada and he definitely looks happier there (I don’t blame him–Vancouver is a world-class town!). He did great in Nashville until the past couple of seasons, and if he faults the team for not making it past the first round, he has to include himself 100%. Otherwise, you’d have to question his allegiance and loyalty to any team. He wasn’t anonymous in Nashville, either. Nashville residents are used to celebrities everywhere they go. Love it or hate it (I don’t care for it), there are some HUGE stars all over Nashville and people like to give them their space. We honor, admire, and respect them and like to let them have a little space and time off from their respective circuits and venues.

    Everyone is entitled to their own happiness, and Hamhuis is no exception. People living in and around Nashville don’t need to defend the city that they love and cherish. We have the good life and know it! But if you want defense, talk to Steve Sullivan or Dan Ellis. They love Nashville! And if you want to complain about numbers at games, check out Atlanta. The 5 games I’ve been to have been a ghost town each time.

    In the end, just make sure Hammer packed his Pooh costume. The kids will love it! Good luck with your new team, Dan!

  10. darren yelton says:

    His comments about making it out of the 1st round make me wonder if he’s forgotten all of his givaways in the playoffs. Classless.

  11. blueliner423 says:

    bitterguy, have you ever been to a game in Nashville? there’s more of an argument for fanhood parity than you give credit. I’ve been to nhl games in edmonton, calgary, chicago, st.paul (MN), nashville, and atlanta, and the Predator fans ARE as legit as any other. They aren’t as great in overall number, that’s for sure… but the fervor is there and their beef with Hammer’s comments is justified.

  12. jeez, oversensitive much? so are you actually suggesting that the fan support in nashville rivals the support in vancouver on an absolute scale? because if you are you’re delusional. i’m sure there are fine hockey fans in nashville, but i don’t think hamhuis was being factually inaccurate in his statement and your umbrage to it reeks of insecurity.

  13. We will see how “Hammerless” likes not being “anonymous” when his mistakes are brought up to a fan base that will actually let him know it when he is out and about town (no disrespect to Nashville as they are known to give their players some space while out and about). The expectations in Vancouver are high. Once he doesn’t live up to those expectations, it will be interesting to see how he takes the pressure.

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