Dan and Sarah met as 16-year-olds.
Dan was new in town, had recently moved to Prince George to play for the Western Hockey League’s Cougars, and because of alphabetical order — Hamhuis and Griffin — had a locker next to Sarah.
He was shy and quiet, but was introduced to Sarah through a mutual friend.
It may have been the most important development of Dan’s hockey career.
Almost two decades later Dan is about to play his 1,000th NHL game when the Dallas Stars host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. He’ll become the first player from the 2001 draft class to reach the number and just the 318th player in league history to reach that mark.
In a league that’s had more than 7,600 players in a century of existence, less than half a percent reach the 1,000-game mark.
“I don’t think Dan has thought too much about it and I really don’t think I did either, but when you start to research about how rare this is, it really is impressive,” Sarah said. “For us, this is all we’ve ever known, and Dan’s always been so humble about things. So it wasn’t something that really had that much gravity or became a big deal until it really got close.”
And Dan said that reality doesn’t exist without Sarah.
His play on the ice in Prince George turned him into one of hockey’s top defensive prospects in the early 2000s. He represented Canada in back-to-back World Junior Championships, and was the 12th player taken in the 2001 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators.
Off the ice his relationship with Sarah provided the foundation and family support for an NHL career that’s now in it’s 14th season. Since they married as 21-year-olds, five years after they met as teenagers, Dan and Sarah have lived in three different cities and raised three daughters — Anna, Morgan, and Brooke — while dan has pieced together a rather successul NHL career.
“You can’t play this long with a family without someone like her,” Dan said. “She takes care of everything, she runs the house, she makes sacrifices to make sure I can keep playing this long.”
There are the obvious sacrifices and hockey can be a fickle business for a family. Players today rarely spend their entire career with one team, so moves are common, and with at least 41 road games a season, Sarah can spend the equivalent of two months of a calendar year — maybe more — as a single mom running the house.
“That’s a big thing, but I don’t think you realize how much little things, even where we’re home, that she does,” Dan said. “Hockey is a tough game, you have to recover. The night of a game I’m not getting home until after midnight and I’m sleeping until 9 the next morning at least, so she’s the one waking up again first thing in the morning to get the girls ready and taking them to school.”
Like Dan, Sarah is humble and downplays her role in all of this.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Sarah said. “We’re a family, that’s what a family does.”
That family is one of the reasons the Stars signed Hamhuis as a free agent on July 1, 2016.
After spending six seasons playing for the Vancouver Canucks, close to both extended families in Prince George and Smithers, the Hamhuises were looking for a new home and signed a two-year contract with the Stars.
“You don’t play this long and that well without having that something makes you valuable to a team in a changing league,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “And while we signed Dan for his game, he adds to the culture of this team. He’s a family man, they’re a great family, those are the types of people you want to surround yourself with, not just in hockey, but in life.”
On the ice the two seasons in Dallas have been highs and lows in Dan’s hockey career. Last season the Stars missed the playoffs, struggled mightily, and there were outside whispers about whether the game had finally passed him by.
This season he’s one of the Stars top defenders, forming a top shutdown pairing with Greg Pateryn, and while he’ll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Dan has proven his NHL career is still far from over.
“We’ve enjoyed Dallas,” Sarah said. “It’s been a great place to raise a family, the girls love it here, and the community is really welcoming.”
While hockey may have determined where they live, Dan and Sarah’s lives main focus are Anna, Morgan, and Brooke.
Whenever his schedule allows, Dan takes the shift driving the girls to and from school. When there is no school, the girls are often at the rink, and recently starred in the Stars Christmas video where they asked pressing questions about the holiday season.
“Dan wants to be a dad first,” Sarah said. “I know he wishes he could do more, but he’s great around the house. He takes the girls to school, he helps in the kitchen, he really puts us first whenever he can.”
Jason Spezza, who was drafted 10 picks prior to Dan in the 2001 draft and will reach 1,000 games at some point next season, knows the Hamhuis family better than most. Going back to their time playing with Hockey Canada as 17-year-olds, the pair of veteran players have gotten to know each other, and the Spezza daughters — there are four of them — have become fast friends with the Hamhuis clan.
“Whenever they come to a game the first question is whether the Hamhuises will be there,” Spezza said. “Dan and I go way back, and on this team, it’s a younger team, it’s been really nice to have someone in the same spot in life. Our kids play together, they get along great, and we actually end up talking about that on road trips and things like that.”
Dan and Sarah have also done their part to extend that family feeling to the rest of the team.
While several younger players on the Stars have talked about Hamhuis as a leader and an example of professionalism, Sarah is a welcoming face for the wives and girlfriends.
“That’s something she did on her own,” Dan said. “We have a career that impacts our entire families, it’s a great career, but it comes with some understanding and struggles. She knows that, so she’s made sure to be there, be supportive and help any other family.”
But this is a moment to celebrate the Hamhuis family, who will be honored sometime next week by the Stars in a ceremony. Sarah estimates “30 to 40 people” are heading to Dallas to celebrate Dan’s 1,000th game and career longevity.
Dan will be the one presented a silver stick, the customary gift for a player reaching 1,000 games, but if he had his way he’d probably have Sarah there accepting it with him.