Family Ties: The Hamiltons

It’s a cold and snowy Thursday afternoon in early April – all too common weather this spring. We are making the drive up to Hamilton Farms, home of Gail and Rob Hamilton. Tim Harvie is at the wheel. A member of the Edge School Foundation Board of Directors, Tim has known the Hamilton family for years and has travelled the country road to their farm many times.

We turn on to a long driveway and Tim explains a bit about the Hamiltons. They have worked hard over the years to build a leading cattle farm. Hard working, honest people. Well respected in the community. We pass by the Hamilton Farms sign, then an impressive workshop building. The Hamilton home is perched on a small hill with a 360-degree view of the surrounding farmland.

As we pull up to their home, I am not surprised to find several hockey sticks on the porch. A week has passed since the Humboldt tragedy, and the Hamiltons are a hockey family. Wyatt (Class of 2006), Wacey (Class of 2008), and Joel (Class of 2012) all played hockey at Edge and graduated from the School. Gail and Rob meet us at the door in Edge Mountaineer jerseys. Today is also jersey day across the country, in honour of the Humboldt Broncos. The Hamiltons could have worn any of their sons’ jerseys – the boys have played for several AHL, AJHL, WHL, U Sports, and ACAC teams. Edge jerseys are a nice touch for this visit.

Sitting down with Gail and Rob, our conversation quickly turns to some of the recent adventures of the Hamilton and Harvie boys. There’s a story about a weekend gathering involving baseball, biker costumes, and plenty of laughs. Another tale ends with a broken office chair at the Harvie home, carefully repaired with duct tape. I sense the stories could go on for hours – and these are just the ones the parents have heard. There is an Edge School angle to most of the stories. The boys have stayed close with many of their Edge classmates and teammates over the years.

The Hamiltons explain how they were just getting their farm off the ground when they were approached by former Edge CEO, Brent Devost, about the school. Rob explains that “they never thought private school was in the cards, but once the boys started going to Edge, the benefits were clear. It was a tremendous environment.”

Wacey was the first to attend Edge, starting in grade seven. Wyatt followed a year later, in grade ten. Joel, a few years younger, began in grade six, Wyatt’s final year at Edge. With long hours on the farm, not to mention travelling to cattle shows, scheduling for the boys was a bit of a magic show. Rob explains how Gail somehow managed to work out a schedule, often relying on the help of other Edge families like the O’Haras, to get the boys to and from school.

I ask Gail and Rob if I can tell the family’s story from their perspective, or whether I should talk to Wyatt, Wacey, and Joel. The boys will welcome the opportunity to talk about their experience with Edge, they tell me. Gail provides me with contact information for each of the boys and says she will let them know I will be contacting them.

The next day I reach out to each of the Hamilton boys with a text message. I anticipate it will take a couple days to hear back, but within minutes Wyatt, Wacey, and Joel get back to me. I suspect it’s not my charm, but a clear instruction from mom they know to follow. That and, as I learn, a true appreciation for their time at Edge and everything their parents have done for them.

In conversations with each of the three boys, I learn more about the importance of family, growing up on a farm and, of course, hockey.

Joel explains that he was in the first grade six class at Edge. He started at the school with a few boys he knew from hockey including Coda Gordon (Class of 2012) and James Robinson (Class of 2012). Joel was the only one of the Hamilton boys to attend Edge School’s new campus, which opened in the fall of 2008. He jokes that the school was not quite ready when students moved in that fall and “it built character, being part of that process.”

In addition to the trip to Boston with his class, Joel’s favourite Edge memories include a grade eight tournament in Burnaby, where Wacey, Brandon Fagerheim (Class of 2008) and Ian Harvie (Class of 2008) were assistant coaches. For that matter, Joel says, “any trip we ever went on is a favourite memory.”

All three Hamilton brothers explain that as they have gotten older, the support they receive from each other has become more important. When they were young, they had the typical brother battles, often on the outdoor rink their dad built for them every winter. Wacey acknowledges some of the liberties the older brothers took with Joel, explaining that “we would often throw him in net and fire pucks and lacrosse balls at him.”

Despite those experiences, or perhaps in part because of them, Joel says that he always looked up to his older brothers, especially when it came to hockey. “With their experiences, they were able to provide good insight as I looked at my next steps in hockey.”

As the oldest brother, Wyatt led the way. In his final year at Edge, Wyatt played with Camrose, where he competed for four full years with the Kodiaks. From there, he went on to UBC, playing with the Thunderbirds and earning his business degree in finance and logistics. As Wyatt explains, Edge played a big part in his development. “The flexibility to play junior and come back to the school, to fast track, and to focus on what you want to do were all so important,” he explains.

Wacey and Joel would follow similar paths to junior hockey and were able to draw on Wyatt’s experiences. Today, Joel has completed business studies at SAIT, earning the ACAC Men’s Hockey Top Scholastic Achiever Award, and is exploring options to play in Europe next season. Wacey is an assistant captain with the AHL Utica Comets. He was married in 2015 and has a ten-month-old daughter. Wyatt is building his career in the oil and gas industry, working in marketing with Whitecap Resources. They have all stayed in contact with several of their Edge classmates and call them lifelong friends.

Wacey says that, while he has nothing but fond memories of his years at Edge, three memories stand out. First was a Bantam AAA tournament he played in with an Edge team loaded with talent: Tyler Myers, Joe Colborne (Class of 2008), Brandon Kozun, to name a few. He explains that “we went to the KIBIHT tournament in Kamloops and beat some elite teams. We played a stacked Russian team in the semi-finals and beat them 2-1 and I will always remember that.”

His second memory is winning the Kyle Stuart Memorial Award for Leadership. Wacey explains, “Kyle was always so good to me. He took me under his wing and he would drive the younger guys to the rink. Receiving the Kyle Stuart Award was a huge honour.”

Finally, graduation is a lasting memory. As Wacey explains, “it was such a great celebration and a happy time, but also a sad time, knowing that we were going our separate ways.”

Having spoken with the three Hamilton boys, it is easy to see why they have all been leaders on their teams, often asked to take on captain roles. Each of them acknowledges the importance of family and the influence of growing up on the farm. As Wacey explains, “I 100% think there is no better way to grow up than on a farm. Every child should be able to experience it. At times I hated it, but there is no chance I would be where I am without that upbringing. My trademark is my work ethic, it is what has allowed me to make it to this level and stay at this level.”

And then there is mom and dad – Gail and Rob. Resting proudly on the mantle of the Hamilton home are photos of their three boys. The photos tell you a lot about the Hamilton family and their values. There is Wyatt in action with the UBC Thunderbirds hockey team. Next to his photo is Wacey in Binghamton Senators gear. On the right is Joel when he was with the Red Deer Rebels. Underneath the photos is a piece written by each son to his parents, personal thank you messages to Gail and Rob for years of sacrifice and for helping them become better people and players. Wyatt, Wacey, and Joel know they couldn’t have had better role models.