ECHL.com Note – Mark Hamlett will work Game 3 of the American Conference Quarterfinals in Charlotte on Saturday.
By Luke Decock
© Copyright 2005, The News & Observer Publishing Company
RALEIGH, N.C. – The size-11 Mission skates still fit. The black-and-white striped jersey still goes over Mark Hamlett’s head with its usual snugness. His right leg is about 85 percent, but it will have to do. The linesman players know as “The Hammer,” as much for his strength as his name, is going back on the ice tonight.
The highest-ranking hockey official to come out of North Carolina will work the final day of the American Hockey League season. He returns to the same place he broke his right leg in December in the midst of a titanic minor-league brawl in Norfolk, Va. Hundreds of Carolina Hurricanes fans were there to witness it.
Growing up, Hamlett came out of a hockey wasteland to make it to the upper echelons of officiating, working one NHL preseason game. Returning from such a badly broken leg in time for the end of the season was no less improbable, but it is all that he has left.
At 33, his shot at the NHL has passed. As with players, the open spots go to younger men. He cut back this season from 120 AHL games to 60 and took a day job at an ice rink in Wake Forest. The day will come soon when the only ice he sees is at The Factory Ice House, where he has been the assistant general manager since October.
“I’ve done everything in minor-league hockey,” Hamlett said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to take the next step in life.
“Everyone’s dreams don’t come true.”