CALGARY — The divorce was bitter, at least on the part of the Bruins. They saw their future franchise defenseman — still young, still raw, still with room to grow — make a stand against them as a restricted free agent. New general manager Don Sweeney tried to offer what he thought was a very fair contract. He was met with silence.
And though the Bruins have been relatively open with their disappointment in the negotiations, the response from Dougie Hamilton has been much the same as it was this summer: more silence.
While Sweeney was suggesting that Hamilton did not want to be part of the Bruins long term, leading the team to deal him to the Flames for what has been considered less than his worth — one first-round pick (Zach Senyshyn) and two second-rounders (Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon) in the 2015 NHL Draft — Hamilton spent the summer deflecting questions.
He got more of them on Thursday, the day before his struggling Flames meet the up-and-down Bruins for the first time since the deal.
Asked if he had any regrets from this summer, Hamilton said, "No, not really. I never went through any of that, so looking back on it now, I wouldn't change anything. I'm happy with, I guess, my whole career so far and my time in Boston and my time in Calgary now, so far. So, happy with everything."
But why did it happen? What led to Boston having to deal a player that the Bruins believed would be wearing a spoked-B for a long, long time?
"I don't know. It didn't work out and things change quick and I don't know," Hamilton said. "There's not really much more to say. It's just, it didn't work out, and that's it."
Did you not want to be in Boston?
"No, I don't know," Hamilton said. "I enjoyed my time in Boston. I reflect on it now and look back on it and am thankful for, I think, everything. So I was really lucky with the opportunity I got.
"I think coming into a good team as a young player, it's tough. I got a lot of opportunity to play and play with a lot of great players, so as well as learn from great coaches and stuff like that. I think looking back on it, I'm really lucky to have that opportunity from them and fortunate for that."
Rumors have swirled about the reasons for Hamilton's desire to leave Boston. Was it that he felt uncomfortable in the locker room? Was it that he asked the Bruins to trade for his brother, Freddie, who was acquired by the Flames at the start of the season, and the Bruins declined? Was it something else entirely?
Just what had happened?
Hamilton said he has not paid attention to the rumors, adding, "I think for me I know the truth and you can't really look into all of that and what people say about you and stuff like that — just try not to look into it too much."
Hamilton said that while he loved playing with Freddie in junior hockey, he didn't demand that the Bruins bring him in from the Avalanche. He did say that he was lucky to have his brother in the Flames organization — Freddie currently plays for Stockton of the AHL — and called the chance to potentially play together in the NHL "pretty cool."
"But," he said, "I don't think it's kind of the game changer or anything like that."
So, in the end, few mysteries were cleared up on Thursday.
But what has been crystal clear in the defenseman's time in Calgary is that his game is still a work-in-progress. Even with the big-money deal — Hamilton signed with the Flames for $5.75 million per year for five years — he remains young, just 22 years old. He still has much to learn.
And while the Flames have had a rocky start this season, so has Hamilton, who had his best game of the season on Tuesday against the Stars — just in time to see his former teammates on Friday at the Saddledome.
"I don't think it's unique to Dougie," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said of the rough start. "I think our team has been a little bumpy here. We've had some turbulence from the get-go . . . I think he's mirrored our team in a lot of ways. There's been some instability in our game."
Even with the difficult transition, Hamilton was all compliments for his new team and new city. He's living downtown, navigating a lot of one-way streets — for reference, he didn't drive in Boston, so he's just meeting the challenge now — as he also navigates a move to the West.
"I think it's obviously different, definitely an adjustment," Hamilton said. "On ice, off ice, everything, so I think I'm starting to get more comfortable and everything, getting used to the system and kind of building chemistry on the ice. Getting used to the city and everything off the ice."
He wasn't sure what to expect, but this wasn't exactly the plan. He had had a good summer of training, and then experienced perhaps more of an adjustment than he had thought he would — especially with the way the team as a whole was playing. It was frustrating, he admitted.
"He's a young player," Treliving said. "We said it at the time of getting him — there was a lot of talk and excitement, and deservedly so, about him coming here. What we tried to say all along is he's still a young player. He's still finding his way in the league. His game's still growing.
"So we look at him not in terms of 10, 20 games, but we look for him to be an important player on this team for a long time."
He was supposed to be that important player in Boston. But now, after all the twists and turns of the summer, all the mysteries and accusations, there is only one path forward for Hamilton: as a Flame.
"I think ever since I got drafted it was my, I guess, vision, dream to be a Bruin for life," Hamilton said.
"I loved being in Boston, playing at the Garden, wearing that jersey, and everything. It's definitely kind of weird when it happens and it changes so quick, so I still have a lot of pictures of myself in the Bruins jersey and stuff like that and enjoy those moments and memories.
"But, like I said, it can change quick and I'm enjoying this kind of new chapter in my life."