CHICAGO — It was the best moment of the weekend. Tariq Hammond, a Denver defenseman, was carried back out on the ice at the United Center and celebrated a national championship with his Pioneer teammates.
Earlier in the game — just at the start of the third period — Hammond crashed into the end boards behind the Denver net and Hammond suffered what was believed to be a badly broken ankle. The play made Merrimack College fans cringe even more so than the nearly 20,000 fans in Chicago. Five years ago, Merrimack senior center Carter Madsen suffered a similar injury in a game at New Hampshire.
“(I) dumped it in and made a routine play,” Hammond said. “I’ve done that play a million times. Just kind of got caught up. The ankle went into the boards — just twisted up.”
Madsen and Hammond have a lot more in common than just the injury. Both players are from Calgary and both played junior hockey in the AJHL with the Okotoks Oilers.
Denver coach Jim Montgomery said after the game that it took three orthopedic surgeons to get Hammond’s ankle back in place to the point where he could be put in a walking cast and be brought out to the celebration with his teammates.
Montgomery also said that Hammond will likely captain the team next season.
“I looked down when I hit the ice, and my ankle was looking a little weird,” Hammond said. “I just knew it probably was over.”
Madsen’s career ended after his injury. He never played again and is now living back in Alberta, working in sales for a construction company that specializes in homes.
“I found out we won and I broke into tears,” Hammond said. “I’m so happy for this group. I love everyone. The support we’ve got from everyone is just incredible. I’m so glad we could bring a championship home for them.”
Madsen suffered an ankle and shin injury when he crashed into the boards at the Whittemore Center.
“His recovery is a testament to his athletic career,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said in a 2012 story. “He worked for everything he had and overcame adversity to become the player he was at Merrimack. He attacked his injury the same way.”