Viper goalie Andrew Hammond is interviewed by Morning Star sports editor Kevin Mitchell after winning the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup in 2009.

Viper goalie Andrew Hammond is interviewed by Morning Star sports editor Kevin Mitchell after winning the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup in 2009.

The Hamburglar the real deal with Senators

Hamburgers for life. Starting in goal for the Ottawa Senators. Earning approximately $15,000 a game.

Hamburgers for life. Starting in goal for the Ottawa Senators. Earning approximately $15,000 a game.

At 27, Vernon Viper grad Andrew Hammond is seeing years of battling hard come to fruition.

The White Rock net detective was just nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHLer who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. No Senator has ever won the award.

Current Viper coach/GM Mark Ferner gave up future considerations ($2,500) to obtain Hammond from the Surrey Eagles early in the 2007-08 B.C. Hockey League season.

Shane Kuss (Surrey GM) had got a goalie out of Prince George – Tommy Tartaglione – and needed to move somebody so we got Hammy,” said Ferner.

“I phoned some people at the coast who I trusted and they said he was a good kid and a good goalie. He was a good fit for us. He had a good personality and he deserves everything he’s got.”

Hammond won 21 games for the Vipers his first year with Vernon bowing to Penticton in the Interior Division final series. His back-up was Lucas Gore.

The following year, Hammond recorded 27 wins with a 2.30 GAA with Graeme Gordon playing behind him. The Vipers won the Royal Bank Cup in Victoria with Hammond going the distance in a 2-0 final win over the Humboldt Broncos at Bear Mountain Arena. He registered 27 saves.

Towering Kyle Bigos scored a gorgeous insurance goal late in the third period of the final, and was named MVP and Top Defenceman in the ‘09 national tournament.

“What I remember about Hammond was his work ethic,” said Bigos, an Edmonton Oiler draft who has reccorded 1-11-12 with the ECHL Ontario Reign in California this season.

“He would always stay extra with Tiller (goalie coach Sean Matile) and work and it showed. Every practice and game he would get better and better. He gave the team the confidence it needed going into playoffs and into the Royal Bank Cup run. I still won’t forget all the times he bailed me out on my blueline turnovers. He definitely had his hands full.”

Forward Kellen Jones, now of the AHL Oklahoma City Barons, witnessed Hammond’s act for two seasons in Vernon.

“I remember how he took it upon himself before his 20-year-old year and had a great summer,” said Kellen, also an Oiler draft who has five goals and 14 points this season.

“He worked for his scholarship and kept working and now he has McDonald’s for life. During that playoff run in ‘09, I don’t think anyone on our team thought we would lose with Hammy in net. During that long playoff run, Hammy’s beard grew pretty thick and Bigos would be the guy to give his beard a good scratch. Must’ve been a good luck thing because they both had great playoffs.”

Kellen’s twin, Connor, also treasures going to war with Hammond.

“Hammy was just a great guy and an awesome teammate,” said Connor, also with Oklahoma City (4-4-8 and currently injured) this year. “In goal, his calmness in the net was something that was amazing, and knowing we had him back there as the last resort for us whenever we made a mistake, was pretty nice.”

Known as ‘The Hamburglar’, Hammond was in worry mode while riding a ferry to the Island with the Vipers his final season.

“He had committed to Bowling Green and word came out that the hockey program was going to fold,” said Ferner. “He was panicking, but then the alumni got together and saved the team.”

Hammond went 0-12-2 with the NCAA Falcons as a freshman, but started stealing wins over the next three years to earn a few nicknames from teammate Wade Finegan. He was initially called Hammond Robber, then Burglar, then Burgs. The Hamburglar eventually stuck.

Hammond brought the nickname with him to the NHL. His mask includes an image of MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman dressed as one-time McDonald’s character Hamburglar on it.

Since being summoned from the Binghampton Senators of the American League, Hammond has tied Frank Brimsek’s 76-year-old record of failing to allow more than two goals in his first 12 NHL starts and moved the Sens into a playoff contender.

Vernon’s Curtis Lazar says Hammond has pretty much brought both Christmas and New Year’s Eve to Ottawa.

“Ahh yes, the Hamburglar,” said Lazar, who was caught on TV munching on a burger tossed on the ice after a win over Boston.

“He has meant so much to our hockey club and truly has rejuvenated the mood and attitude within our dressing room. He sits in the corner by Marc Methot and he is well liked because he is a competitor and doesn’t take anything for granted.

“The attention be’s been getting with the media, fans and everyone else around the league is great. He has been the backbone to us rallying back into the hunt for the playoffs. It’s almost like the circus is in town everyday at the rink with him around because the amount of cameras he deals with is incredible.”

Lazar, a first-round draft pick who boosted Canada to gold at the last World Junior Hockey Championships, says Vernon does come up in conversation with Hammond, a Semiahmoo minor hockey alumnus.

“We talk about Vernon a bit and we always joke around because I’m pretty sure I watched him play a few times so we always have a good laugh with that.”

Sens’ head coach Dave Cameron gets asked almost nightly about Hammond, and recently talked about the goalie’s appreciation for his teammates.

“We’re a good team,” said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Hammond, on Senators TV. “We’re not just winning by luck. We’re outshooting teams so it feels like we’re deserving to win a lot of games.”

Named the NHL’s first star in March, Hammond says he’s just worried about being ready for the next time he’s asked to play. He can’t control whether he or Craig Anderson gets the call to start.

As of press time Thursday, Hammond was 15-1-1 with a 1.85 GAA and dazzling .938 save percentage with a pair of shutouts. He signed as a free agent last year, pocketing a $140,000 signing bonus. His yearly salary is $720,000US and his cap hit is $309,000. He’s been worth every nickel.