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Blackhawks goalie prospect Andrew Hammond won’t give up goal

Goalie Andrew ­Hammond 24 is oldest player Blackhawks’ prospect camp. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Goalie Andrew ­Hammond, 24, is the oldest player at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 14, 2012 6:35AM

Burnt out on hockey shortly after graduating from high school, Andrew Hammond considered quitting the game for a time.

Instead, the Surrey, British Columbia, native took a step back, and it was the key to taking the next step up.

“The team I was on at the time was having a lot of success, but kind of the fun component was taken out of it,” said Hammond, a goalie and undrafted free-agent invitee to the Blackhawks’ prospect camp. “I went back to a lower level where I knew the coach really well, and I started having fun again. It kind of turned on that burning desire for me, and I figured out hockey was what I wanted to pursue as a career.”

That pursuit took him to Bowling Green, where he underwent a baptism of fire during a winless freshman year before wresting the starting job away from an older goalie his sophomore season.

“He’s not willing to accept mediocre or just OK,” Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. “He wants to be great, and to him, that’s not just about words. It’s about the willingness to do what it takes every day.”

That willingness is a trait Hammond has had ever since he got his start in goal as a kid playing street hockey with his older brother.

“My brother is about five years older, so when I wanted to play with him and his friends, the only way they’d let me is if I was in net,” Hammond said. “So he kind of put me out there and strapped the pads on me, and I just kind of started from there. It’s a funny way to get into it, but I’m glad it happened that way.”

Hammond will return in the fall for his senior season at Bowling Green, where he started every game as a junior. He had a 14-25-5 record but set the program record for minutes in a season to go along with a 2.73 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Hammond also stopped the second-most shots in Bowling Green history.

At 24, Hammond is the oldest player at the prospect camp. That, coupled with the fact that he has gone undrafted, would suggest a likely career in the minors.

But Hammond, who said he always has been a late bloomer, isn’t interested in what others believe is his most likely career trajectory.

“It’s kind of been the story of my hockey career,” Hammond said. “I’ve kind of always been one of the older guys, whether it’s been looking for a scholarship or now looking to play in the National Hockey League. It’s just kind of been the way it’s gone for me. …

“[Others] very well may [count me out], I don’t know. No one has ever told me that. That’s up to them; if they want to do that, they can. I’m just here to play my game. It’s something that I’ve gotten used to and something I’m going to continue doing. I’m just going to keep working hard, and whatever happens, happens. My goal is to make it to the National Hockey League.”

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