B.C.'s Dan Hamhuis helps out in Haiti
Published Sunday, June 13, 2010 11:21PM PDT
When Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake in January, it hit home for former Montreal Canadiens player, Georges Laraque.
Laraque's family is from Haiti. When he saw the destruction the country was suffering, he wanted to do something to help.
Along with the NHL Players' Association, Laraque organized "Hockey for Haiti," raising money to help the country get back on its feet.
B.C. native Dan Hamhuis a defenceman for the Nashville Predators, decided he needed to join Laraque and help build funds for Haitian relief.
"It's something I've always been interested in," said Hamhuis, who added he thought about going for a day or two and knew he wanted to jump on the opportunity.
"It's always great when you can help out kids," said Hamhuis. "The country as a whole has been really devastated. It'sespecially hard on the children; it's a tough struggle for them."
The NHLPA and World Vision teamed up to send NHL players to Grace Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, which has beenoperating out of tents since the earthquake.
The effort has raised more than $1 million, including from an online Olympic jersey auction in which Sidney Crosby's Team Canadajersey alone sold for over $40,000.
"The country is in really rough condition right now," said Hamhuis, speaking from Haiti. "Even before the earthquake it was one of the poorest countries in the world, so the children need a lot of help."
Hamhuis and Laraque played hockey with the local children, most of whom have never even seen a hockey stick.
The children received lessons from the two NHL players and learned how to hold a stick and shoot the ball.
"We kept it real simple," said Hamhuis. "We just told them it's basically like soccer but you don't kick the ball into the net."
Hamhuis said they explained the game in soccer terms and the kids caught on quickly.
Life after Haiti
When Hamhuis returns from Haiti, NHL free agency will be waiting on his doorstep. Hamhuis is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, which may mean the talented blue-liner could come home and sign in Vancouver.
"We have an open mind to it," said Hamhuis about signing with the Canucks. "Vancouver seems like a great place to play. They've got a very competitive team and of course I know from being in the area, it's a big, beautiful city to play in."
There is no secret the Canucks need to fill a void on their blue line and fans would love to see Hamhuis suit up in Canucks' blue, white and green.
Hamhuis says he enjoyed his time in Nashville and is still waiting to hear back from the team's ownership to see if he fits into their budget.
Lessons learned on the road
In North America Hamhuis may be a sports celebrity, but his trip to Haiti humbled him.
"I've been blessed with so many things, with fame and money, and I just want to use that as much as I can to give back to the people who are less fortunate," said Hamhuis.
Spending time and working in Haiti taught Hamhuis many things about his own situation and also about the people around him, he said.
Hamhuis has been touched by the Haitian people's strong will and ability to not let the country's devastation get the better of them.
"These people don't have a lot -- basically no possessions," said Hamhuis. "They're living amongst the rubble in tents and yet they are not feeling sorry for themselves.
"They're still here smiling and I see them doing crafts and selling things on the side of the road. It's really admirable to see that from them."
Hamhuis will return home this weekend but he knows it is going to take a while for the real impression of his trip to fully sink in.
"I think it's going to take a few days or a few weeks when I'm back in North America just to look back and to think about what went on, what I've learned and gain a new perspective I have on things."
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kelcey Brade