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'Hamburglar' Pulls Off Spellbinding NHL Cinderella Story

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now to David Greene with a Cinderella story that is the talk of the hockey world.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: The central character of this story has been busy creating moments like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Hammond, goal stopped and his best of the night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Hammond, and that is what he's been doing...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: Here's Giroux, who needs to score to keep it going. No, stopped by the Hamburglar, who's done it again.

GREENE: Those are just some of the heroics pulled off by Andrew Hammond. His nickname is the Hamburglar. Remember that McDonald's character in the prison stripes and mask? Well, six weeks ago, a series of injuries forced this minor-league goalie with a very mediocre record into the starting job with the NHL's Ottawa Senators. And since then, he has been on a record-breaking streak, winning 14 of his first 15 games. His only loss was in an overtime shootout. He has almost single-handedly vaulted the Senators from near the bottom of the standings into a playoff position. To talk about this, we're joined from Ottawa by Roy MacGregor. He's a columnist and longtime hockey writer for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. Roy, welcome.

ROY MACGREGOR: Thank you, David.

GREENE: So introduce us, if you can, to the Hamburglar, and tell me a little bit about him and what he's pulled off here.

MACGREGOR: It's a strange story. I've been covering hockey for 40 years, and I've never seen anything like this. This kid comes up from the minors because he - they had to. Their first goaltender, Craig Anderson, went down with a hand injury. Their second goaltender, Robin Lehner, went down after he had a collision with a teammate, of all things.

GREENE: Oh, wow.

MACGREGOR: So they throw this guy in the net. He has absolutely no background that would make you think that he should even be there. He couldn't make his Junior A team up in British Columbia, so they put him back on the Junior B team. He was going to quit, but his Junior B coach talked him into staying. He finally made it up into the American Hockey League in Binghamton. And he was known for one thing, and that was that he started a game in December in which he let in three goals on the first four shots within a span of 21 seconds and was yanked from the game.

GREENE: A lot of fans of the Senators must have thought this season, if it wasn't bad enough already, it's totally over now.

MACGREGOR: Just look at what happened here. They lost their two best forwards. They fired their coach. The general manager has been seriously ill, fighting cancer. The fans had given up in December. It's also been the most brutal winter anyone can recall. So people were in miserable, miserable moods. Now people are happy. People are talking about this Hamburglar. Kids are wearing the Hamburglar masks. McDonald's sales have gone through the roof. And he's endearing, charming, humble, and it's just a wonderful story.

GREENE: God, I mean, there's something so poetic about everything you just described here.

MACGREGOR: And he's witty. You know, he had the Hamburglar on his masks. So McDonald's makes this gesture of giving him a McDonald's card for life. And he said, well, if I had known that was coming, I'd have put a Porsche on my mask.

GREENE: (Laughter) How did this happen? If it's not magic, is there something about the goalie position in hockey that can be streaky and sort of surprise you in a way like this?

MACGREGOR: Yes, I believe so. The goaltender position in hockey has become out of sync with the rest of the game. No one scores of those old Gretzky, Lemieux paces anymore. And so it's become a goaltender's kind of league. And when they get on a roll, the goalies are so large, the equipment is so outsized that, yes, you can have quite a streak. However, that still doesn't explain how a little guy from nowhere comes in and does this.

GREENE: Quite a story from Ottawa. We've been speaking to Roy MacGregor - he is a longtime hockey writer for Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper - about goalie Andrew Hammond, better known as the Hamburglar. Roy, thanks a lot.

MACGREGOR: Thank you, David.

MONTAGNE: And that's our David Greene. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.