Nick Caamano’s legacy in the city of Hamilton stretches far beyond that of an impressive contribution to a championship season. Born and raised in Ancaster, Nick Caamanno’s ties to the city remain strong, even after making the jump to pro hockey.
After spending his rookie season with the AHL’s Texas Stars, he’s made the trip back to Hamilton, where he spends the offseason with friends and family. He even trains alongside longtime childhood teammate and fellow Bulldogs alumnus, Brandon Saigeon.
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“I think Hamilton will always be a special place,” said Caamano, who’s family still lives in the city. “Every offseason I look forward to coming back. It’s got that ‘home’ feeling for me.”
His rookie campaign with Texas saw Caamano tally 23 points in 73 games. In April, he joined the Dallas Stars as a black ace for their playoff run, where he was able to train and practice along some of the hockey’s superstars. “It was definitely a lot of ups and downs,” said Caamano of his rookie season. “But it was rewarding and a lot of fun.”
In many ways, Hamilton shaped Caamano into the player he is today. He credits his time with Bulldogs as an essential step in his road to professional hockey.
“My game really evolved when I was in Hamilton.” Said Caamano. Joining a team with depth gave him the opportunity to work on his defensive game. “It helped me a lot going to pros because not everyone just scores goals; you need to be able to play in your own end”
Caamano knew that going into his rookie season in professional hockey, the biggest difference would be in the strength of the players. While in Hamilton, he worked with strength and conditioning coach Justin Brooks throughout the 2018 playoffs and going into the Memorial Cup. “Those guys are the closest thing you’re going to get to pro hockey before you’re there. I think that was a good test for me.”
His transition to professional hockey was made easier with the help of fellow Bulldogs alumnus, Ben Gleason. The pair lived together this past season while playing for the Stars. “It definitely helped out a lot having a familiar face around the rink” said Caamano. “He’s someone you can always go to if you’re in a down mood. If you’re not feeling yourself, I knew could always go to him”
Reflecting on his time in Hamilton brings back only overwhelmingly positive memories for Caamano. Winning the Championship here in front of family and friends made his short time with the Bulldogs feel extra special.
“I think Hamilton has some of the best fans, if not the best fans in the CHL and I absolutely loved playing there,” said Caamano. “I know everyone that has played there has said the same thing, that it’s one of the best places to play in the CHL.”
And in comparison to the environment of the pros? “There isn’t much difference,” said Caamano “If anything, playing in Hamilton was kinda cooler.”
Echoing the sentiments of his former teammates, he believes that the 2018 Championship team was the closest group that he’s ever played with. “I stay in touch with pretty much every single guy on the team” said Caamano. He added that despite time and distance, the team group chat is still alive and well, “every time someone does something or we see something we’re always texting or snapchatting about it– nobody has really stopped talking to each other.”
“Those friendships will last forever,” said Caamano.
Off the ice, Nick Caamano is building his legacy beyond the game of hockey. During his time in Hamilton, he would often visit McMaster Children’s Hospital, where his cousin, Anya, was undergoing cancer treatment. Often joined by teammates, Caamano would spend time with the patients, stopping by to say hello or bringing gifts on special occasions. “Talking to the kids and putting a smile on their face, it means the world.”
His cousin tragically passed away in September 2018, but Caamano has carried on with the outreach that she inspired.
In Texas, he joined the team on community appearances and charitable initiatives. “I always like to get involved in the community,” said Caamano. “Texas really embraced us a team so I just wanted to give back when I could” His contribution earned him the Texas Stars IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award.
He cites the Stars’ involvement with Special Olympics Texas as a highlight of the season. He hopes to expand his involvement next season, where he plans to develop a program that would see him meeting Special Olympics athletes and family members after each home game.
He hopes that other young athletes will follow in his footsteps. “We play in these communities that embrace the hockey and embrace the players,” said Caamano “So I think when we can give back to the people that look up to us and the people that support us, I don’t think there should be any questions asked.”
“I definitely know I’m fortunate to be doing what I’m doing so if I can give back in any way to other people I know it means a lot,” said Caamano. “And it feels good when I give back, so it’s a win-win situation”
The Hamilton Bulldogs strive to carry on the community outreach that was started by Nick Caamano. In October, the team will be participating in the Anya Martinz Memorial Golf Tournament in support of McMaster Children Hospital. If you would like to get involved, please visit: https://golftourney.com/golftournaments/anya-martinez-memorial-golf-tournament