When I became a Sens fan as a young kid in between Osgoode and Kemptville, I didn’t realize the rollercoaster I was putting myself through. I knew I had to stick through the good times and the bad, and thankfully we’re getting out of the bad and into the good. But, when thinking of my childhood as a Sens fan, when Andrew Hammond came to the Sens, it was the best time to be a fan outside their cup run in 2007.
Recent times have shined some luck on the Sens, especially with their stellar 2020 draft and great development of young stars like Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, and Tim Stützle, to name a few. But, for the sake of fun, let’s rewind past all that.
Let’s go back to December 2014. The Ottawa Senators are a mediocre team, dipping in and out of the playoffs in recent seasons, getting beat in the first round in 3 out of their last 4 playoff appearances. They had a very interesting, relatively young, and fun team to watch, riding off their captain: Erik Karlsson. Other players that stepped up that season were players like Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, and Mika Zibanejad. Yet, the season started off very disappointing, with the coach that recently won the Jack Adams award for coach of the year getting yanked.
The replacement coach seemed to be about the same from the start, however, but then something unfortunate happened. Their goalie tandem of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner lost a key piece, that one being starter Anderson. With his injury, Cameron called up the AHL goaltender for the Sens: Andrew Hammond.
Now, let’s go into the history of Andrew Hammond before the 2014-15 season. He was an AHL goalie for only one season before this once, being a long-time goalie in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the BCHL. He played a key role in the Vernon Vipers 2008-09 run to win the RBC Cup, having an insane .949 save percentage in the 17 playoff games he played. Even though that run led to his scholarship to play for the Bowling Green Falcons for four years, the times weren’t amazing. He dipped below a .905 save percentage in two of those four years, and later on in his career, he admitted to thinking of quitting twice at that time.
Alas, he finished his CCHA time strong, with his final year having a solid .917 save percentage. He entered the free-agent market in 2013-14, signed with the Sens on St. Patrick’s Day and played for their AHL team, the Binghamton Senators.
For that season, he put up another solid season, a .910 save percentage over 48 games. At the time, it seemed like the Senators had a decent AHL goalie that might be able to play backup in case of injury, and that’s just what happened in the next year.
But, there was one key issue when the 2014-15 season came along. Hammond was having a horrible start to his sophomore AHL season. Over 25 AHL games, the nicknamed Hamburglar wasn’t stealing any games in Binghamton. His save percentage to start the season was .898, a poor start to say the least. Yet, he was the only option available to the Sens at the time. Most fans agreed the season was over once Anderson got injured, as he was (and will be known as) the best Senators goalie. Might as well try, to see what we have with Hammond, especially at a point in the season where we’re 20-22-9 and have nothing to lose with our main goalie gone.
So, after keeping him as a backup, Lehner also faced an injury in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. That eventually led to Hammond starting, and they won 4-2 against a solid Montreal Canadiens team. On the surface, Hammond had a winning game, probably relying a lot on the defense of an NHL team. A nice story, but surely he won’t be like this for every game.
Let’s see what his save percentage was for that first match. .955%.
Woah. that’s….kinda awesome, but that has to be a fluke right? The next match was against the Florida Panthers, how did he do there?
That was the start of a stretch where Andrew Hammond was the closest thing the Sens had to Dominik Hasek since, well, Dominik Hasek. He wasn’t nearly as flashy, but he did make some great saves along the way. He also tied a record that was once regarded as nearly unbreakable, by allowing only 2 goals or fewer in his first 12 games of his NHL career.
Game after game, with Hammond as the backstop, the Sens went on a crazy 23-4-4 run to end off the season. The Senators, who were at only 49 points before the run, got 50 points to finish the season with 99 and make the playoffs.
Out of all the moments, there are a few that stick out. One of them is Curtis Lazar, picking up and eating a hamburger that a fan threw over the glass in a win, a new tradition at the time for the Hamburgular. It is something that I can guarantee that Sens fans avidly watching that run as I did have etched in their minds, a little piece of joy.
Alas, the joy didn’t last forever. The Sens made the playoffs, but lost in a six-game series to the Montreal Canadiens. Despite rocking a good .914 save percentage, the Sens defensively couldn’t handle the Canadiens in a series, leading Hammond to also have 3.44 average goals against in that series. A far cry from the 1.79 GAA he had in the regular season.
Then, weirdly enough, he stayed with the Sens, gave them another good season, and then sort of disappeared. Not physically, but statistically, the Hamburgular was back to his AHL form, not stealing games the same way he did in the past. He bounced up and down from the NHL and AHL until the Sens decided to trade him to the Colorado Avalanche, where he would play for their AHL team, the San Antonio Rampage for one game.
But then, almost as if the gods wanted to give him another chance, the Avalanche started to have goalie injury issues as well. Hammond played a game for the Avalanche in the regular season, put up good numbers and had to start in the playoffs. Somehow, someway, the Hamburglar of old returned, with the highlight being a 44/45 save game against the Nashville Predators. He ended the series with a .933 save percentage.
Those playoff games would be the last NHL games he would play for just over three years. After playing for the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, he played two games in the KHL and called it a career.
A weird one, to say the least. From the minors to a contract to starting goaltender setting records, to a forgotten name, back into starting goaltender, and then into the sunset. He didn’t win any awards outside of his BCHL championship, but he did win the hearts of Sens fans. Even now, mentioning the Hamburgular run will evoke memories of an adventure on ice, and I’d like to end this off with a stat that might blow your mind.
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Over the course of NHL history, the record of the best save percentage in a season has always been coveted. The cutting-off point for this stat is at least 25 games played and includes three goalies that have had a save percentage at or above .940%. Hammond played exactly 24 games, one-off being included in this list. His save percentage over that season was .941%. He would be the best goaltender in the modern era, outside of Jacques Plante in the 1970-71 season with his leading .944%.
If you don’t mind me putting some of my bias in here, the Hamburgular run was the best hockey story of the 2010s. Plus, If I ever meet him someday, I’ll make sure to offer a run to a fast food place for a burger and some great stories.