- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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Young players from all 30 organizations attended the event to listen to and learn from NHL veterans, both past and present, about the challenges and expectations of becoming a player in the league.
One particular lecture stood out for Hamilton.
Growing up a Maple Leafs fan in Toronto, Hamilton's favorite player in the late '90s was Leafs defenseman Bryan Berard, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 NHL draft. He played 10 years with the New York Islanders, Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Berard, a native of Woonsocket, R.I., won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie with the Islanders in 1996-97 and suffered an eye injury that nearly ended his career while playing for Toronto in 2000. His finished his career with the Islanders after the 2007-08 season.
This past August, Berard stood before a group of future full-time NHLers and told them his story, and how he lost at least $3 million -- and maybe upward of $6 million -- because he was scammed by a business associate.
Hamilton was locked in on every word and says he learned from Berard's story.
"Just the importance of managing your money," Hamilton said. "People, like [Berard] was saying, realize you have money and you don't have much time to think about what to do with it because you're always playing. People try to take advantage of you in a way, and for me it's just a matter of trusting people, saving my money and being smart."
In hockey, veteran players and the NHLPA make a point of educating and helping younger players. Hamilton is one who always listens, but hearing a story like Berard's meant a little more.
"He was a role model when I was little and it's something you don't see as a fan," Hamilton said. "So to hear what he went through, it's something you always have to remember and be smart with. It was good of him to talk with us and share his story to kind of help us."
Last Wednesday, authorities arrested two men, Phil Kenner and Tommy Constantine, on multiple charges of scamming more than a dozen current and former NHL players, according to a report by the New York Daily News.
Berard was 17 was he first met Kenner and trusted him enough to invest millions of dollars in real estate. Berard thought he had a nest egg of wealth so that when he retired he would be able to live comfortably. But when he retired he realized the millions he thought he had invested wisely were gone. Along with federal authorities, Berard began to investigate to find out what happened to his money.
Berard doesn't want other young athletes to learn the hard way.
"I feel for these kids and what they go through at a young age," Berard said. "You have agents coming after you, the finance firms, the wealth management coming after you and you just don't know who to trust."
Berard explained to the NHL rookies that his father made $40,000 a year and raised six children. Once Berard became a pro hockey player, the money he was earning was unlike anything he had known, and he trusted people to take care of his future.
"We didn't come from money and most hockey players come from blue-collar families," Berard said. "Then all of a sudden at a young age you start making some big money and it's kind of like what do you do with it?"
Now Berard is working with WhaleRock Point Partners, a financial firm in Providence, R.I., with Brad Dorman and Rich Cavanaugh, both of whom played hockey with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli at Harvard. Berard wanted to partner with the firm in order to educate and help young athletes.
"Your life span is so long, but as a professional athlete your money earnings is such a short period of time," Berard said. "When you're making that money, you need to save, and that's the message I gave to the young guys. I lived it and I experienced it. I want to educate these kids so when they retire they don't have to be stressed out and they can build a good nest egg."
Berard is hustling to earn a living now.
Hamilton, a 20-year-old defenseman who was Boston's first pick (ninth overall) in the 2011 draft, learned a lot during the summer about the importance of maturity and responsibility, both personally and professionally.
Hamilton watched as Chiarelli traded forward Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, to the Dallas Stars for reasons relating to issues on and off the ice. Not that Hamilton is a big partier, but Seguin being traded cemented the fact that the Bruins are about winning and having their players act like pros.
This is Hamilton's sophomore season in the NHL. He's earned the opportunity to play and that's what he's focused on while trying to limit any outside distractions.
"I try not to really worry about stuff away from hockey," Hamilton said. "For me, as a young guy, I'm focusing on hockey right now. I don't have a girlfriend or kids or anything to worry about, which makes it a lot easier. Just with all that stuff, there can be a lot of distractions, and being recognized in the city, and money, all that different stuff, you need to have a plan of putting [money] away, putting that stuff aside and focusing on hockey."
Hamilton's agent, J.P. Barry, is considered one of the best in the business and has earned the trust of his clients. He also represents the Bruins' Daniel Paille, Dennis Seidenberg, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
Hamilton understands the importance of being responsible as a pro athlete, especially in a city like Boston. Most nights, he and roommate Adam McQuaid stay in and watch TV, but when they do go out for dinner or a jaunt around town, Hamilton is aware of his celebrity status.
"It's something you get used to, but you have to really watch what you're doing and make sure you're being a good role model to kids," Hamilton said. "When you go out, there are a lot of times you get recognized and you have to remember and realize what you do is being watched pretty much all the time.
"Sometimes it's difficult when you're eating dinner and you can tell people are watching you and stuff like that. It's all good, in a way, because you dream of being [a pro athlete] and you have to just have fun with it, I guess."
Becoming a successful pro athlete takes more than just having success on the ice, field, court or course. Young players need to learn how to manage their lives and Berard is hoping he can help by telling his story.
"I hope they listen," he said. "If I was at that age and could hear these real-life stories, and you could see people put actual numbers in front of you, it would have educated me better -- at least I hope it would have."