The world of collegiate hockey has bestowed on All-American forward Jeff Hamilton ’01 just about every honor an athlete in his position could hope for. The list of awards the Ohio-native holds is seemingly endless. He is a three-time first-team All-ECAC honoree, two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, twice a Hobey Baker Finalist and has earned All-American honors three times — each a first-time acomplishment for a Yale hockey player.
Before Hamilton’s arrival in 1997, Yale’s program had never won an ECAC title and had only won three Ivy League banners. As he departs this year, he and his teammates leave behind three Ivy League championships and an ECAC regular season title.
And yet a laundry list of accolades cannot fully capture Hamilton’s impact on the Yale hockey program. It seemed that every night he dressed for a game, he was the best player on the ice. From the first drop of the puck, fans at Ingalls Rink anticipated something magical when Hamilton skated. As a freshman in 1998, he scored perhaps Yale hockey’s most important goal ever, netting the game-winner against Rensselaer to clinch the ECAC title, the first in Eli hockey history.
Dealt a cruel blow by fate, Hamilton was injured in the ECAC playoffs and was unable to take part in the NCAA tournament — an opportunity he would not have again during his collegiate career. And so with his departure, Yale hockey, indeed the entire athletic program, will say farewell to an Eli great. A player of Hamilton’s caliber is not easily replaced — or forgotten.