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Old 08-07-2010, 12:43 PM
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Posted 6 hours ago

For Freddie Hamilton, there are only three letters that could possibly top the A's on his report card: N-H-L.

As a recent graduate of Governor Simcoe Secondary School and a player in the Ontario Hockey League, the 18- year-old recently pulled off a hat trick of achievements. His mind-boggling 98.83% average was the highest mark of any Grade 12 student in the District School Board of Niagara. His 55 points in the Niagara IceDogs 2009- 2010 season made him the third-highest scorer on the team. And the icing on the cake -- he was recently drafted by the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.
"Getting the news was exciting, because you know that you're a step closer to achieving your dreams," he said of the June draft. That was the week before his graduation ceremony, adding an extra celebratory element to prom festivities.

"I can envision myself playing in the NHL, but at the same time I still understand that I have to put a lot more work into it to be good enough to play."

Shooting for his goals has always been important to the serious-minded Hamilton.

He said he was always at the top of his class in school and always felt driven to do well. When there's work to be done, he puts his skates on.

He attributes his successes on the ice and in the classroom to his strong work ethic and a perfectionist nature.

"If something's given to me, I feel like I should do my best. I'm pretty hard-working and take a lot of pride in doing things well. It's just something I've always done," the 18-year-old said.

When it came to role models growing up, Hamilton never had to look far. His parents are former Olympians.

His mother Lynn, a native of St. Catharines, was a basketball player in the 1984 Olympics and won a bronze medal in the world championships. His father Doug, an environmental lawyer, participated in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. As a rower, in addition to winning the bronze in 1988, he captured the gold in the world championships.

"I was pretty proud of having them as my parents," he said. "I used to bring their medals to school for show-and-tell."

Sports were always a fixture of the Hamilton household.

Freddie recalled being exposed to a variety of sports early on and attended many Toronto Maple Leafs games on family outings. Whether by influence or genetics, it's not surprising some of his parents' winning habits rubbed off on him.

"I don't feel like I necessarily have to live up to what they did, but it definitely motivates me," said Hamilton.

"It gave me goals to work towards, whether it be to try and represent my country like they did or just doing well in everything I do."

Hamilton grew up in Toronto and began playing hockey when he was about five years old, in conjunction with many other sports. A few years ago, however, he decided to narrow his focus on hockey. He played for the Toronto Marlboros, a minor hockey team, until he was drafted by the Niagara IceDogs.

The opportunity to play for the team brought Hamilton and his family to St. Catharines two years ago. The move was a good fit for his family, he said, since his mother grew up here.

"It's pretty cool that my mom once went to the same high school as me and my brother," he said.

While many teens might find it trying enough to transfer high schools in Grade 11, Hamilton tackled the challenge straight on, while moving to a new city and playing for a new hockey team in an advanced league.

He admits it was difficult in the beginning.

"My schedule was pretty demanding and I wasn't used to that," he said.

"Going to school, playing hockey and working out every day was pretty tiring at the start."

But soon, he found it easier to manage his schedule.

"I usually tried to plan out my weeks and did a lot of my homework when I had the time," he said.

Despite the initial challenges, Hamilton said starting his new life in St. Catharines was a fun transition. He enjoys being in a smaller town, where the hockey team is well-known with a strong fan base.

"Going to school with people knowing you're on the IceDogs was a pretty cool change for me," he said.

"I've never thought about being different. I think I fit in really well with all of my friends at the school."

Hamilton considers himself lucky he hasn't sacrificed a social life while balancing hockey with his school work.

"I honestly don't think I'm missing out on much," he said.

"I get to spend a lot of time on things that I love, and then my free time after that is when I concentrate on school."

One of his best friends through the years has been his younger brother Dougie, who despite being considered the more outgoing of the two seems to have followed in his footsteps.

Dougie not only joined him on the IceDogs last year, but also held a high average in school.

"I don't know if we drive each other to do better than one another, but we both push each other and help each other out a lot," he said.

"It would be fun if he gets drafted for the Sharks too."

While his academic achievements may be rare in the hockey world, Hamilton noted it's a trait that can play against him.

"Some teams thought it was a negative that I have done so well in school. The general attitude (is) they tend to stay away from people who have other options," he said.

"That just gives me another thing to prove them wrong."

Hamilton noted that being a draft pick for the Sharks is just a first step toward achieving his dreams of playing for the NHL. It will require a lot more work to improve his skills before he could expect to be called to play for the team. That's why, with high school now behind him, he is shifting most of his focus to playing hockey.

"There's no way I could be a full-time student and make the NHL," he said.

But his academic career won't be completely on ice. He plans to pursue health sciences at Brock University part-time. Being a top scholar offers a promising Plan B.

"I'd like to get my university degree whether I go to the NHL or not," he said. "Maybe I'll be some kind of doctor or something."
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