Hamrlik powers Edmonton Oilers defense

Originally published on EuroReport.com in 2000

By Lucas Aykroyd

In hockey talk, the term “workhorse” is often abused. Listening to TV color commentators, you might think any NHL defenseman who occasionally plays more than 20 minutes per game deserves that title. But Roman Hamrlik of the Edmonton Oilers really is a workhorse, and he proved it in his team’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Vancouver Canucks on 25 January at GM Place. The mobile 25-year-old blueliner from Zlin, Czech Republic was named the game’s second star as he racked up a goal and three assists, along with a team-leading 28:31 of ice time. This is the type of performance the Tampa Bay Lightning expected from Hamrlik when they took him number one overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. Since being traded to Edmonton on 30 December 1997, the 6-2, 215-pound Hamrlik has rounded out his defensive game and maintained his power play skills to the point of making Boris Mironov expendable after last season. And as EuroReport’s Lucas Aykroyd discovered, the affable seven-year veteran doesn’t allow his individual brilliance to distract him from team goals.

EuroReport: What did you think of your team’s performance in a four-point game against a division rival?

Roman Hamrlik: It was a tough game. We started our road trip on the right note here. We needed this win because we didn’t play very well against Nashville and we lost in overtime. This was a big game for us and everybody was into it. We’re very happy with the win.

EuroReport: Let’s look at your season. You’re leading the Oilers defense in scoring with 27 points in 47 games. How happy are you with your play so far?

Hamrlik: It’s been OK. I didn’t get to training camp, but I was still in pretty good shape in the early games because I played a few games with my old team in the Czech Republic. After that, I struggled for a while, but now I feel confident. The points are coming. I’ve gotten the opportunity to play on the power play and the penalty kill. We have a great young team, and that helps.

EuroReport: Tell me about your defense partner, Tom Poti.

Hamrlik: This is the second year I’ve played with him. He’s got a great future with Edmonton, and I like him. We understand each other on the ice. He knows what I can do, and I know what he can do. We just try to move the puck to the forwards as quickly as we can.

EuroReport: In 1995-96, you had your best offensive year with 65 points. How tough would it be to replicate those numbers in today’s defense-oriented NHL?

Hamrlik: It’s tough. That year in Tampa Bay, we had a great power play, and I was lucky to be part of it. I think we were third in the league. Petr Klima and I were just trying to pass the puck and get it on net, and get some goals off rebounds. That’s what happened. We won a lot of games with our power play. Hopefully I can get those kind of numbers in Edmonton someday.

EuroReport: Looking back, what do you think of the moves Tampa has made since you left the Lightning?

Hamrlik: They’ve changed a lot of guys. GMs, coaches, players. I only know Chris Gratton from the old team. Hopefully they’ll get going in the right direction. It takes time when a franchise decides to make big moves.

EuroReport: How have you benefited from joining the Oilers?

Hamrlik: It’s been probably the best time of my life. It was a good move for me. I was in Tampa too long. Here, I’ve gotten more ice time, and I think I’ve proven I’m a better hockey player. I’m happy here. I don’t complain about anything.

EuroReport: What was your reaction when you learned the Canadian federal government had changed its mind about subsidizing the small market NHL clubs?

Hamrlik: We were shocked. Everybody was talking about it. We just have to go forward and play hockey. I think they will set something up eventually. I can’t do anything about it. But it’s too bad about the financial problems.

EuroReport: Finally, what is it going to take to get your team into the playoffs in a very tight race?

Hamrlik: I think if we play like we played in this game, we have a pretty good chance. We have a team with lots of speed and hitting, and we have to stay confident and play our system. Winning those big games in our division is important. We’re fighting for our lives right now. Every game is like a playoff game. That’s good hockey.

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