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December 28, 2014

Jean Hamel

I think my Jean Hamel hockey card has seen better days:

Jean Hamel was forced to retire 5 days before Christmas in 1984. A freak eye injury claimed the career of a steady, defensive defenseman.

 In a preseasons game against the Boston Bruins on October 4, 1984, Bruin center Ken Linseman flipped the puck into the Canadiens end before going off on a line change. However the puck never got into the Habs zone, as it hit Hamel right in the eye. Hamel was confined to a Boston hospital for a full week.

The doctors told Hamel that it didn't look good, and that he should take a year off and maybe the eye would get better. Hamel didn't want to quit hockey, so he began practicing with the team again in order to see if he could still play.

"I had the feeling that I could still play" remembers Hamel. "But by practicing with the team, I started to realize it was over."

After weeks of speculation, Hamel made his retirement official.

"When you are put aside because of an injury, it is very frustrating" said Hamel at the tiime. "When you have played hockey for 12 years, you get used to the routine. I think its a good living, its a good life."

Hamel was able to continue his life in hockey as the Canadiens extended his existing 2 year contract to 5 years. Hamel would report to the minor leagues where he would serve as an assistant coach. Hamel was excited about the opportunity, but didn't think it would be a tough transition.

"For the past 6 or 7 years, every time there was a new kid coming up, I was the guy playing with him. I'm looking forward to helping the defensemen in Sherbrooke."

Jean Hamel was drafted 41st overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 1972 amateur draft. He had just completed two seasons with Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior League. After a brief stint in St. Louis he was traded to Detroit with Chris Evans and Bryan Watson for Ted Harris, Bill Collins and Garnet Bailey.

Hamel enjoyed 7 1/2 seasons in Detroit, though the team was one of the weakest in the league at the time. When he became a free agent in 1981 he achieved a dream of playing hockey in his native Quebec, signing a 2 year deal with the Nordiques. On October 3, 1983 he was claimed on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. He spent one full year as a Hab before the injury.

A defensive defenseman who perhaps benefitted from dilution created by expansion and the WHA, Hamel scored 26 goals in 699 NHL games. He added no goals in 33 playoff contests

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