WILMINGTON — Dougie Hamilton’s 2012-13 season started off about as well as Bruins fans — and management — could have hoped. But by the end of the postseason, the rookie defenseman was watching games from the press box.
Hamilton said that provided him with motivation.
“I think you’re doing what’s best for the team, and if that’s what we need to win, then I was fine with that,’’ said Hamilton, one of a handful of Bruins who went for an informal skate at Ristuccia Arena Wednesday.
“I think obviously you want to be playing and on the ice. Of course, you spend the summer working your hardest so that you’re playing and not sitting out.”
But Hamilton also made sure to take time off from hockey, shutting off that part of his brain and relaxing after a season that saw him skate in 32 games with his junior team plus play in the world juniors in Russia before joining the Bruins after the NHL lockout.
Mostly, he said, he worked out. He saw friends and family. What he didn’t do was relive any of his games from last season.
“Just kind of try to forget about hockey for a little bit,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to be able to come in motivated and hungry. Obviously, you still want to get better and stuff, but I think that’s just stuff you need to do, it’s not stuff you need to look back on.”
When pressed about what he learned last season and what he needs to do this season, Hamilton said, “Just get older, first of all.”
He added that he has tried to get stronger and work on his game and skills, something he called “a process.”
He said he gained a little weight, but called the amount “a secret.”
Hamilton struggled a bit through the growth spurts that took him to 6 feet 5 inches, and he said he feels the most coordinated he’s been since gaining the height.
“I still think I need to fill out,” Hamilton said. “I’m not at that point yet. But I’ve started to a little bit.
“Yeah, just been tough over the last couple years with growing so much, especially a couple of years ago. Now just doing sprints and stuff, you can feel like your body’s there.”
The other Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson has heard it all before. All the quips and jokes, all the suggestions to pick a new moniker. But, for now, he’s going to stick with what he has.
“Nothing good enough to change,” the Bruins’ new goalie said. “It’s kind of fun, though. I play along with it, too. It’s kind of funny to me, too.”
In fact, when Johnson was with the Rangers organization, the players around him called him “Ocho,” a reference to football’s Chad Johnson, who also went by Chad Ochocinco.
For now, Johnson is focused on his spot as Tuukka Rask’s backup, a job that is likely to go to him despite only 10 games of NHL experience. He does have competition in the form of Providence star Niklas Svedberg, but Svedberg’s cap hit — $1 million to Johnson’s $600,000 — might prove prohibitive for the up-against-the-cap Bruins.
“When they approached me early on, it was definitely a no-brainer for me,” Johnson said of signing with the Bruins to replace Anton Khudobin as the No. 2 goalie. “This is the spot I wanted to be.”
Said Rask, “I think it’s going to be good competition between the three of us.”
But Johnson knows there’s more work to be done to get him where he wants to be, given his lack of experience and results. He’s here, he said, to earn his spot.
“I don’t think I at all established myself,” said Johnson, who played for Phoenix last season. “I think you always have to prove yourself, even if you’ve been in this league for five or 10 years, it doesn’t really matter.
“This is definitely my opportunity to get my foot in the door and I hope to take advantage of it.”
Summer work for Spooner
Ryan Spooner had some injury issues this summer, starting with cutting open his foot on glass in early July. He also had a cyst that had to be removed from his palm, something that is still somewhat painful. But the injuries weren’t actually so bad, and he could work more on his upper body. The forward, who has a chance to make the NHL club this season, said he was trying to “focus on doing what I do best and hopefully that’s enough.” Spooner worked hard to lower his body fat this summer, significantly improving his fitness level. “You can see that his foot speed is world-class, the way the guy gets around the ice,” Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Whether he can make the plays in traffic against bigger-bodied guys, better defenders, that’ll play out.” . . . Goalie Adam Morrison tweaked his leg Wednesday, so Svedberg is on call to join the rookies at their tournament in Florida over the weekend.
Lucic in the house
Milan Lucic made his first appearance at Ristuccia Arena Wednesday. He was joined by newcomers Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly, Hamilton, and Johnson . . . One player who won’t be here is Nathan Horton, who departed for Columbus in the offseason. “For me personally, it’s more than just losing a teammate,’’ said Lucic. “There’s no grudges, there’s nothing like that. You just want to focus on who’s here and the team that we have and turn the page and move on.” . . . Lucic will host his fourth annual Rock & Jock softball game to benefit Celebrities for Charity on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Lowell Spinners’ LeLacheur Park. General admission tickets can be purchased at www.nmtw.org. “You get to see us swing a bat, which you don’t get to see very often,” Lucic said.