Over the last few weeks, Oil Country has been familiarizing itself with the Edmonton Oilers’ offseason additions, from first-round draft pick Xavier Bourgault to Warren Foegele, who was traded from the Carolina Hurricanes.
Zach Hyman needs no such introduction. The prized signing of Ken Holland, who joined the Oilers for seven years at a $5.5 million annual average value (AAV), was already a hockey household name, one of this summer’s most coveted free agents, after several increasingly impactful seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The left winger, 29, has a well-earned reputation as a workhorse, heart-and-soul type who is a difference-maker at both ends of the rink. But there are many unique and fascinating things fans might not know about Hyman. Here are four of them:
He’s in the Hall
No, Hyman is not a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, but his old sweater resides there. The No. 11 Hamilton Red Wings jersey Hyman wore in the 2010-11 season was displayed prominently for several months at the HHOF as part of the Hometown Hockey “Year in Review” exhibit, which also featured a mural of Hyman.
Hyman had a truly special campaign in 2010-11, his final season of junior before going to the University of Michigan. He piled up 102 points in 43 regular-season games en route to becoming just the second Ontario Junior Hockey League player named Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year.
There are only two other Michigan players to win the CJHL Player of the Year award. They share an Edmonton connection: Mike Comrie played five seasons for the Oilers, and Jeff Tambellini is the son of former former former Oilers general manager, Steve Tambellini.
Hyman was also named OJHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player and received the B.J. Monro Memorial Trophy (top professional prospect) from the Ontario Hockey Association for 2010-11.
He’s a Gold Medalist
Turn on any NHL game between any two teams at any given time and it’s almost guaranteed there’s a gold medalist on the ice. If not two or three or more. They’re everywhere. Some players have gold medals from the IIHF U18 Championships, others from the World Juniors or World Championships, even a few have that most precious medallion from the Olympics.
But it’s just as likely that of the more than 1,000 players who will suit up in the NHL this coming season, Hyman will be the only one who can claim to be a Maccabiah Games gold medal champion.
Often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” the Maccabiah Games are an international sports competition in Israel every four years. The 2017 Maccabiah comprised 10,000 athletes from 80 countries, making it the third-largest event in the world, behind only the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games.
Hyman represented his country at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, helping Team Canada top the podium in men’s hockey. The gold medal-winning Canadian squad was coached by Guy Carboneau, a 2019 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Hyman’s other international experience includes playing for Team Canada East at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge and serving as an alternate captain for Canada at Under-20 Three Nations Cup in 2010.
He Started an Esports Company
In October 2018, Hyman launched Eleven Gaming, a professional esports organization based out of Toronto, with a team competing in Fortnite. Just this year, Eleven Gaming was a nominee in the category of Best Esports Organization at the 2021 Canadian Game Awards.
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Eleven Gaming was named, of course, for Hyman’s jersey number. Make that his former jersey number: Hyman will wear No. 18 in Edmonton because the Oilers have retired No. 11 in honor of Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier.
He’s an Author
Believe it or not, Hyman has authored more children’s books (three) than he has recorded 20-goal seasons in the NHL (two).
Hyman’s roots as a writer trace back to Grade 7, when he won a short-story competition. That story provided the basis for his first book, “Hockey Hero,” which was initially self-published.
In 2015, following Hyman’s final year at Michigan and as he began his first season of professional hockey, Penguin Random House published a revamped version of “Hockey Hero” along with Hyman’s second book, “The Bambino and Me.”
It’s fun to write for kids because I remember when I was a kid and I always used to love reading children’s books and looking at the pictures and being all excited.Zach Hyman
“The Magician’s Secret,” Hyman’s third title, was published by Penguin Random House in 2018 and was nominated for the 2019 Blue Spruce Award by the Ontario Library Association.
A fourth book is in the works, and Oilers fans hope that in 2021-22 Hyman delivers his third 20-goal season. In fact, with Hyman penciled in to play on Edmonton’s top line alongside playmaker extraordinaire Connor McDavid, many believe he can hit the 30-goal mark for the first time as an NHLer.
That remains to be seen, starting when Edmonton plays its first game of the season at Rogers Arena, against the Vancouver Canucks, on Oct. 13, and Hyman makes his Oilers debut.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.