Flash back to 1997. The Phantoms were based in
Philadelphia and over a decade away from moving
to the North Country. The Adirondack Red Wings
still skated at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
The youngest current Phantom, Tye McGinn, was
seven years old and starting the second grade.
Meanwhile, a 20-year-old Denis Hamel was starting
his professional career with the Rochester Americans.
In 2011, a 34-year-old Hamel is still lighting
the lamps in the pro hockey circuit as well as
anybody in the American Hockey League. Hamel leads
the Adirondack Phantoms with nine goals and 14
points, as the team (8-4-1) is enjoying its hottest
start to a season since moving to Glens Falls
in 2009. Hamel’s latest goal, Friday night
against the Syracuse Crunch, was his 324th in
the AHL. Heading into a four-game road trip which
starts Tuesday against the Portland Pirates, Hamel
is within one tally of Adirondack Red Wing legend
Glenn Merkosky for 12th place on the AHL’s
all-time goal scoring list.
Merkosky played 11 professional seasons including
six with the Adirondack Red Wings from 1985-91.
He scored 325 times and his #15 was retired on
December 22, 1993 and continues to decorate the
rafters of the Glens Falls Civic Center. He was
inducted in the inaugural class of the Adirondack
Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Hamel has already surpassed several AHL legends
on his way to 325 goals. He started the year by
passing current Washington Capitals head coach
Bruce Boudreau (316 goals), and he’s also
vaulted past Fred Thurier (319 goals) and Bruce
Cline (321 goals). However, for all the legends
he’s already passed, Hamel admits that for
him, it’s all about taking one game at a
time and performing to his best on a nightly basis.
“I hear about it (the milestones) and read
about it, but I try not to think of that. I’m
just here to play hockey and do the best I can,”
Hamel’s road to 325 goals has been long
and winding. Since starting his career in the
Sabres organization with Rochester in 1997; Hamel
has played for the Ottawa Senators, Binghamton
Senators, Atlanta Thrashers and Philadelphia Flyers,
before joining the Phantoms in November 2010.
Since becoming a Phantom, Hamel has paced Adirondack
scorers. Besides leading the team with nine goals
and 14 points this season, he led the team with
25 goals and 50 points last season, while serving
as a mentor to many of his younger teammates.
"Denis is an excellent professional for
us and he has been really good with our younger
players," said Phantoms head coach Joe Paterson.
"Plus, he scores some huge goals for us to
enable us to win some games."
For all the leadership he brings, goals he’s
scored and stops his career has made; it was with
the Binghamton Senators where Hamel established
himself as a probable for the AHL’s Hall
of Fame. Hamel registered 29 goals, 38 assists
and was named an AHL First Team All-Star, during
his first season with Binghamton, in 2003-04.
Two seasons later, as captain of the Senators,
Hamel compiled a career-best 91 points (56g, 35a)
and was a co-winner of the AHL’s Willie
Marshall Award, which is given annually to the
league’s leading goal scorer. Hamel later
won the AHL’s Man of the Year Award in 2007-08
and is still Binghamton’s all-time leading
scorer with 392 career points (203g, 189a).
Despite his lengthy tenure in Binghamton, it’s
in Glens Falls where Hamel is reaching some of
the AHL’s most lofty heights. Besides his
chase of Merkosky on the all-time goal scoring
list, Hamel continues to climb the AHL’s
all-time games played and points lists. Hamel
is 33rd all-time with 789 games played in the
AHL and he’s just 19 contests from 1,000
professional games—Denis has played in 192
NHL games. His 298 career assists being added
to his goal total give him 622 points, which are
two behind Brian Kilrea and Ken Gernander for
35th and 34th all-time in that category.
Both Kilrea and Gernander went on to have notable
coaching careers after their playing days. Kilrea
coached the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey
League from 1974-2009 and was enshrined in the
Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, while Gernander is
currently the bench boss of the Connecticut Whale.
When asked if he had any personal goals that
he’s yet to accomplish, Hamel reiterated
that to him, his goal is just doing the best he
can in each particular game and allowing the chips
to fall where they may.
“This is my 15th year. You never know when
it’s going to be your last year. I just
want to keep doing the best I can and see what
Classic Video: Game winning goal vs. Roberto Luongo