Guest writer (Origin story): Jack Hammet


Today’s guest writer is Jack Hammet and I feel a need to explain how we came to know each other.

He’s more or less the same age as Will (AKA BIg Cat). In fact, Jack went to school with Will and his wider circle of mates, which is where I first heard about him. What I heard wasn’t always great. From all accounts, Jack was a little more wild than the others; more prepared to really push boundaries and potentially get into trouble. I’ve always been a big believer that teenagers should get into some trouble (ask my younger son, Mack – AKA Wookie, AKA Mackquist – for an account of The Ferret Incident sometime and you’ll hear an outstanding story of the kind of trouble kids should get into).

Teenagers should push things a bit, but not so much that you worry for them, that you’re scared. I heard rumours of this kid who played it harder and faster than the rest of the school crowd, and I’d seen guys like that in my generation, especially in journalism, where some cadets couldn’t handle the hard-drinking, hard-living, dick-swinging world that was daily papers. Some spun out badly and were alcoholics or fuck-ups by their mid-20s. Others swam on, survived and matured.

So, I finally got to meet Jack when I ventured down to the Icehouse. He and Big Cat had been skating most of the summer, in fact from the moment VCE exams ended, if not before. They were getting good as I literally staggered onto the ice, barely vertical.

And here’s the thing, this manchild instantly struck me as an outstanding person. I was ready for some punk Hellraiser (and he still loves that profile, as you will read between the lines below – he’s a happy Goon) but damn, if Jack, big bad Jack, wasn’t a man I could look in the eye and just know that he was a good one. He wasn’t always a genius – he hurt Will one day, needlessly slamming him during a Stick & Puck session – but he travelled for a while, then came back and you could see him growing into himself, losing the anger that (until the piece below) I had never understood, and had really only heard about.

Here we are,  a whole – what? 12 or 18 months later, and Jack is a lock for a leadership role in whichever team he lands on; he’s helping rookie defenders know where to position themselves, what not to do; he’s endlessly there for people.

Rock on, Jack, and thanks for this piece. It’s from the heart and honest and for that, respect.


Does blood bounce on ice?

By Jack Hammet

I hate to start this on a depressing note but bear with me, it’s not all sad, and I think it’s important in explaining my story and unwavering love for hockey…

When I was 7, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a long and hard road that unfortunately ended five years later with her passing away when I was about to hit 13. I never knew my dad and for a lot of my childhood it was just my mum and I. As you would expect, this formed a strong connection between us and she was my rock. When she passed away, everything changed for me. I found myself dealing with a step dad trying to drown his sorrows in beer (and doing well at it) and a little brother who was still far too young to look after himself. This left me, just entering my teenage years, trying to balance looking after my brother, school (which I hated) and the anger/confusion/sadness and everything else that resided within me as a result of my mum’s death.

“What? Who? Me?” Jack (standing) in his element.

But I feel in a lot of ways, that sport was my saviour. I know other people that have been through similar things and become drug dealers, criminals and all kinds of things and I honestly think that sport has kept me grounded and given me something to focus on and provided an outlet for all the anger I had.

(No more depressing stuff, I promise.)

I always loved sport and had played football (Aussie Rules) since I was old enough to run, I loved the contact and was always good at dropping (and sometimes injuring) other players. For this reason, I played full back. I played full back for the Fitzroy Lions for about eight years before I made the switch to basketball.

Immediately I missed the contact and got fouled out most games for my first season and occasionally ejected (kicked out of the stadium). In both basketball and football, I found myself getting in trouble due to fights. I went to a pretty rough school for most of high school and needed to be able to look after myself. I was pretty big in comparison to most people my age but decided I better learn how to fight anyway so I started doing MMA/ judo/ karate/ jujitsu/ boxing and a whole bunch of other fighting styles as well as my personal favourite, sporting brawls!

As those of you who have spent time with me will know, I like to have a laugh and do stupid shit but once the game starts, whatever that sport may be, I get much more serious! I’m not one to go looking for a fight but if people mess with my teammates, I’ll be coming for them. This attitude was appreciated by my teammates but not so much by refs, parents etc… Due to this, basketball just didn’t quite fit my style. But that all changed when I discovered ice hockey!

When I was nearing the end of year 12, I saw a family friend who was managing the Icehouse at the time. Once I told him I had never skated before, he told me I had to go down and give it a go. I made a day of it and brought a few friends down with me (one of them being Will “Kittens” Place). Will and I immediately fell in love and came back later that night for a pond hockey session, I came back the next day and bought my first pair of hockey skates. To say I was hooked is an understatement! It was then that I started watching the NHL and AIHL and started following the greatest hockey teams on the planet, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Melbourne Ice!

It was not long after this that I met Joey Hughes (of Melbourne Ice and NLHA fame) at a party. We got talking (and drinking). He encouraged me to keep up the hockey and to come down and get trained by him. The fact that even the top level players in Australia are so chilled out and happy to talk to newbies made me feel right at home and seeing his passion for hockey only made my love for it stronger.

I felt straight away that I had found a sport that I truly clicked with. The parts I was most fond of were the contact, the team (family like) oriented mentality and of course, the fighting. I had to pinch myself, I had finally found a sport where I wouldn’t get in trouble (well not too much) for fighting!

From the day of that first skate, hockey became a big part of my life. And has become more and more so as time has passed, to the point

The only pic I could find of Jack in a Washington Capitals jersey, instead of his Penguins kit. He remains fun to annoy. … oh, wait. I’ve made a huge mistake. – Nicko

where I now even work at the Icehouse. It is safe to say that I bleed hockey!

Throughout all of the year 12 exam period, I didn’t study, well not biology and business management anyway, I studied hockey! I spent the better part of every day down at the Icehouse. Even on days I had exams, I would skate in the morning, rush to my exam, do it as quickly as possible, then go back to the Icehouse to practice my crossovers and hockey stops, the important stuff, not stupid school work.

It wasn’t long before I joined classes and Lliam and Army became my mentors, I skipped intro and went straight to intermediate classes … a term of that and I was on to dev league. As with past sports, it was clear that defence was where I belonged and I couldn’t have been happier!

I got my first hockey injury at around the same time at a stick and puck session.  Being a male, I thought the helmet cage made me look soft, so naturally, I put a screwdriver to it and went without. I was on the ice for no longer than 20 seconds before I realized my mistake, I took a slap shot to the face and got knocked out. As I woke in a pool of blood, I realized that cage was probably there for a reason… I made the trip to the hospital in my full gear (minus skates, gloves and helmet) and once I was recommended for plastic surgery (no scar) but also had the option of stitches (scar) to get my lip put back together, I took the stitches. It was then, sitting in the car in my gear, going home with a mouth full of stitches, that I felt like a real hockey player and I have never looked back.

This is only the beginning of my hockey journey, I’m 19 years young and I’ve got a lot to learn (I now wear a cage and just deal with looking stupid) plenty of time to work on my skating, shooting, dangles and all the rest of it. I’ve met some awesome people through hockey and I know I’ll continue to meet more. Thank you to those of you who have been there with me so far, I look forward to skating alongside you for years to come.

I am eagerly waiting to play my first season of summer hockey this year and I can’t wait to play my first game, score my first goal, get my first check (even if summer is non contact) but more than anything… I can’t wait to drop the gloves!

Amen. Class warfare starts again.

Me (in red) winning a breakaway in my Dev League debut. A very rare photo. Pic: Ben Weisser

OK, I need you to imagine drinking three straight litres of water without a break. Then sitting in a locked room for nine hours. A room with no, um, facilities. Now you’re allowed out of the room but only to jog up and down on the spot for one hour, all while continuing to sip water at regular intervals.

You are then placed in a car and sit in the back seat for four hours as the car travels over bumpy roads, all while listening to a CD: “The magnificent sounds of a trickling stream”.

Finally the car stops at the world’s largest waterfall and you watch the water cascading, streaming down the rocks. You are made to drink another three large glasses of soda water.

Your fingers and toes are placed in warm water.

Get the idea …

Well, now replace the need for a toilet at this time with the need to play ice hockey, and that was me last night. Intermediate, Week One, could not come around quickly enough and there was nothing I could do to fast forward the day leading to 8.45 pm. Sure, Will (aka Kittens) and I got a little excited and turned up at the Icehouse at 6 pm, but it turned out that didn’t make 8.45 pm come any faster. We played pool at the Harbourside (modesty prevents me offering the scoreline [I kicked his arse]) and I ate pizza and drank dry ginger ale because the ice was beckoning, beating out even the desire for alcohol.

Kittens, in classic pose. Of course, he scored a goal. Uppity kid. Pic: Ben Weisser

And finally it was time. Greeting the other rookies, meeting a few I only knew by facebook profile; strapping into full armour and looking like a sumo on skates as my Grand Rapids Griffins jersey, on Australian debut, ballooned over my gear. And, ready!

Of course, our coaches Army, Lliam and Michael welcomed us back with hardcore skating tests and obligingly sent my group of skaters to outside edge drills as the opening gambit. One of my worst skills. And of course the other three guys I was bracketed with are in the running for Outside Edge Rookies of the Year while I managed not to fall.

Until the second drill when Michael had us attempting to transition at speed from forwards to backwards skating, around a cone. And I found out fast that my new helmet, bought in Chicago, has excellent impact-absorption in the back of the lid when your head smacks hard against the ice during a backward plank.

Then we were doing crossovers and I didn’t suffer any mortal injuries – Army even raised an eyebrow at my improvement – before Lliam gave me some tips at inside edge skating that worked all the way until the fourth cone at which point I tested the ice impact capabilities of my new gloves and my ageing elbow pads, falling heavily while fully committed to one foot inside edge around a cone. At least I was fully committed, right?

All that was left to start the term was a game of two-on-two where my partner and I played the Washington Generals to the other pair’s Harlem Globetrotters, and a bizarre tapdancing crossover drill where the miracle was I didn’t fall.

It was actually an awesome class, finished with four rounds of straight-up tearaway fast sprints up and down the ice. That’s when I’m at my happiest, even if I’m not the fastest rookie out there. I just love seeing how fast I can go, getting that cardio-hit, and then morbidly wondering if I can stop in time as the boards approach. The answer was universally yes last night, which shows my summer of toil wasn’t totally wasted.

This was always going to happen in my Dev League debut. Pic: Ben Weisser

But the best was yet to come, because a quick Zamboni run later, I was back on the ice, now in my Zetterberg Wings jersey, as part of the red team in my Development League debut.

I’m not sure I can hope to convey how awesome Dev League was. I could try poetry but after rhyming “ice” with “nice” I start to struggle. “Dice”? “Mice”? “Concise”? “Condoleezza Rice”?

One thing I know: I’m glad I didn’t do Dev League last term, as Will did. I wouldn’t have been ready. But with a summer of skating practice under my belt, and so many supportive, friendly rookie classmates urging me on, it was brilliant, truly brilliant.

For the first time, I felt like a real hockey player, playing an hour of scrimmage, deciding when to end my shifts, powering up and down the ice (mown down on two attempted breakaways, first to the puck on one – shot went wide, dammnit) and just generally deciding that ok, I won’t suck embarrassingly among these players, even if there are clearly superior skaters out there.

Condoleezza Rice: not relevant here.

The game had one casualty – Ken went down with a nasty split lip and was lucky not to lose teeth – and I had a couple of spills but nothing fatal. On my first shift, I failed to trap a puck along the boards which ended up in a goal at the other end, which had me doing some old fashioned cussing, but I got progressively more comfortable with every following shift and didn’t panic, didn’t just flail, kept an eye on staying onside, didn’t lose my position most of the time and generally felt like the beginnings of an idea of a genuine hockey player in a team.

It felt very good.

The other rookies were awesome in welcoming me to the game and this level. Benched between shifts, Jay and I marvelled at how far some of the skaters who started with us a year ago in Intro have come. Morgan Squires was dominating but then (and don’t take this the wrong way, Morgan) it was just as heartening for me to see him and others occasionally screw up. They’re not all bulletproof and error-free as I blunder along. We’re all still in class, training, getting better, striving. And I can see how this term is going to make me blossom, trying to keep up.

A very very very good night, back on the ice, even if I was home at midnight, accidentally drinking off-milk and unable to consider sleep until much later.

Today, my groin, hips and legs were hurting in the second best way they can and I loved every second of feeling the aches. Next Wednesday, please oh please come around without delay.

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible but hockey just became a whole lot more fun.

Jack, a committed Penguins fan, in a Washington jersey, so he could play Dev League in the red team. These are the lengths people will go to. Pic: Ben Weisser