March 19, 2015 / 5:43 PM / 4 years ago

Senators' 'Hamburglar' stealing hearts of NHL fans

(Reuters) - Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond has taken the NHL by storm since being thrust into the starting job and has lived up to his ‘Hamburglar’ nickname during a remarkable run that has his team back in the playoff race.

Mar 15, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond (30) picks up a hamburger that was thrown on the ice at the end of game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators defeated the Flyers 2-1 in a shoot-out at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Hammond, who was nicknamed after the McDonald’s character while “stealing” wins for Bowling Green State University, has been almost impenetrable since getting the call up in February to fill in when both Ottawa netminders went down with injuries.

During a recent game in which Hammond stole another win, an Ottawa fan tossed a hamburger on the ice in the goalie’s honor. Hammond calmly scooped up the hamburger and held it high before tossing it back in the stands.

“I tried to give it to someone in the crowd, but they weren’t ready for it,” said Hammond, who is 11-0-1 in 12 starts with Ottawa. “It was a little cold so I didn’t want to eat it.”

The owner of six McDonald’s locations in the Ottawa area has since said he will deliver a card to the goalie that entitles him to free McDonald’s food for life.

The 27-year-old Canadian’s sensational play in net has even inspired a unique giveaway as the first 10,000 fans who arrive for Thursday’s home game versus the Boston Bruins will receive a Hamburglar mask.

In his next start, Hammond will have the chance to become the first NHL goaltender to allow no more than two goals in each of his first 13 career starts after tying the record set by Boston’s Frank Brimsek in 1938.

Before Hammond took over in the Ottawa crease, the Senators trailed Boston by nine points for the final Eastern Conference wild card berth into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now they are four points back of the Bruins with a game in hand.

“He’s on fire,” said Senators forward Kyle Turris. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.”

Hammond has embraced the nickname. He has an image of the McDonald’s character on his goalie mask and is happy to see Senators fans having fun with it as well.

“I think it’s funny,” Hammond said of people latching onto “The Hamburglar” hype. “It’s all in good fun, but I think other people are starting to enjoy it more than me now. But it’s pretty cool in all regards.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating

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