A search for Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman on Amazon doesn’t bring up any signed memorabilia or game-used gear—like there would be for many pro athletes in one of the four major North American sports. But it does bring up books—not about him—but, rather, by him.
Indeed, the 30-year-old Toronto native and eight-year NHL veteran whose Jewish day school education began at the United Synagogue Day School and continued at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto Tanenbaum Campus for high school, where he met his future wife, Alannah, with whom he now has two young sons, is the proud author of multiple children’s books.
Last decade, during the early years of his NHL career, which he spent for his hometown Maple Leafs, Hyman wrote three picture books for young readers: “The Bambino and Me” (a baseball fantasy set in 1920s New York, featuring Babe Ruth, that touches on the nostalgia of childhood summers); “Hockey Hero” (a feel-good story about a shy young boy who finds his hockey chutzpah at a PeeWee tournament); and “The Magician’s Secret” (an action-adventure tale featuring a grandfather and grandson duo). All three books garnered strong literary reviews, proved to be commercial successes, and continue to sell well today.
But now that he’s a father of an infant and toddler, ironically (or perhaps, understandably) plans for writing more children’s books have been put on ice.
“I have two little boys so I’m busy. I have my hands full with them,” he acknowledged to the Atlanta Jewish Times during a recent interview.
He’s also got his hands full with hockey. This spring, in fact, he’s hoping to author a happy ending to what’s been a storybook season for him personally, having recently cracked the 30-goal mark for the first time while racking up assists at a prolific rate in helping the Oilers contend for their first Stanley Cup title since 1990.
Not that he cares to go into detail about his personal accomplishments; discussion about his career-best season invariably shifts toward the team, the one with the league’s two premier offensive players, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the latter of whom is a generational talent and putting the finishing touches on a career year himself.
“We have a great team,” Hyman responded when asked about his outlook for the balance of the 2022-23 campaign. “We’re just going at it and just trying to win these close playoff-like games. It has been really fun. It has been awesome. We have got a good group of guys.”
What’s been the key for the breakout campaign?
“Just trying to improve every year. Just going into the hard areas and trying to capitalize a little bit more.”
Hyman, who was chosen by the Florida Panthers in the third round (No. 123) of the 2010 NHL Draft and, ultimately, tallied 185 points (86 goals, 99 assists) in 345 regular-season games with the Maple Leafs, may not care for bringing attention to his personal on-ice achievements, but he is intent on bringing awareness to societal antisemitism. In late January 2022, his Oilers were visiting the Ottawa Senators when the now-infamous truckers’ rally protesting pandemic precautions rolled through Canada’s capital. There was an abundance of Nazi-related signs and banners on full display and, as a lifelong devout Jew, Hyman felt inclined to share his thoughts publicly.
“It’s disturbing and disheartening to see that antisemitism is on the rise, unfortunately, which is crazy nowadays,” Hyman said in an interview with The Athletic. “Seeing that and being Jewish and being proud of my heritage — and it was just Holocaust Memorial Day a couple days ago — and it was right around the time the swastikas were up.
“Hopefully, I can bring awareness that things like that aren’t OK. It was just disturbing to see that.”
One of the primary reasons that Hyman signed with the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent in July 2021 was because the capital of Alberta has a vibrant Jewish community. And, true to form, several months later in December 2021, he lit the first candle of Chanukah at the Giant Menorah Lighting in Edmonton with Chabad Rabbi Ari Drelich.
For the hockey-crazed city of Edmonton that lives and dies with the fortunes of its beloved Oilers team, he’s also been a good fit from a public relations perspective. A sizable media contingent hovers around the team on a daily basis and the ever poised and accountable Hyman is a go-to skater for a thoughtful postgame soundbite, win or lose. Such graciousness was on full display when Hyman met with reporters following his team’s 7-4 loss to the Maple Leafs earlier this month—his first true homecoming (Canadian rinks remained mostly vacant last year) and one in which his guys were ambushed for six goals over the final two periods.
“Going forward, you’re going to play only good teams in the playoffs and teams like Toronto who have that kind of firepower,” he noted. “And you’ve got to be able to learn how to stop momentum. You’ve got to be able to find a way to stop the bleeding and to find your game again, especially in a building that’s excited about the game.”
After this season, Hyman’s got five years remaining on the seven-year, $38.5 million contract he signed in summer 2021, one that’s looking like a nifty team-friendly bargain at this hour. The deal was structured in such a way that the Oilers will have the flexibility to buyout its final two years when Hyman hits his mid-30s—a time when many a hockey player starts breaking down from years of jolting mid-ice collisions and bone-shattering forechecks. But at this point, it’s hard to imagine the Oilers brass going in that direction.
“Zach is a Swiss Army knife type of player,” said Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft. “He’s good on the wall. He’s a foxhole and trenches type player. Someone who takes pride in the little details in his game. He goes to hard places. He does work for other people. He’s integral to everything we have going on right now here with our team in Edmonton.”
- David Ostrowsky
- Edmonton Oilers left wing Zach Hyman
- United Synagogue Day School
- Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto Tanenbaum Campus
- The Bambino and Me
- Hockey Hero
- The Magician’s Secret
- Stanley Cup
- Leon Draisaitl
- Connor McDavid
- Florida Panthers
- Ottawa Senators
- Holocaust Memorial Day
- Giant Menorah Lighting
- Chabad Rabbi Ari Drelich