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BUDDY SYSTEM

Defence partners Hamonic and Hanifin have developed a close bond, both on and off the ice: "We spend so much time together, on and off the ice, we're like brothers that way."

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

As the younger, quieter of the two, Noah Hanifin has no rebuttal when the trash talk heats up.

By now, he's gotten used to being on the receiving end of his partner's playful salvos. 

"Yeah, but I'm an easy target," the 22-year-old laughed, with the older, "wiser" Travis Hamonic within earshot Friday in the Flames dressing room. 

"That's Hammer.

"He's pretty good at it. LOVES chirping at everybody. 

"We spend so much time together, on and off the ice, we're like brothers that way."

Brothers, of course, inherently know each other's weaknesses. It's natural to poke fun, share a laugh and trade barbs. 

But what makes a real brotherhood airtight is a mutual feeling of admiration. An unspoken obligation of being in the other's corner, 100% of the time, no matter what. 

These two are just that - each other's greatest ally.

"The boys let us hear it pretty good the other day when we were on the ice by ourselves," Hamonic laughed. "We wanted to get a skate in before camp started, and figured it was a good chance to work on a few things. Just us. 

"We really enjoy ourselves. The group in here is such a good group, such an easy group to get along with. That camaraderie is really important for everyone, but especially for him and I. Last year, we kept building and building and building on that chemistry, so for us to come in here, Year 2, and already have that foundation in place on and off the ice, it can only be a good thing, right?

"When you have that open line of communication, neither of us are hurting each other's feelings when we look each other in the eye and say, 'Let's get going,' or 'What the heck were you doing there?'

"That's a huge part of it, a huge intangible to having a good pairing."

 

 

The on-ice portion of Main Camp began Friday with our first look at the new squad, and those fighting for - "realistically," as general manager Brad Treliving put it - only one spot on D. 

With the injury to Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington looking to build on solid rookie campaign, Michael Stone back in the mix after a signing a one-year deal, Brandon Davidson, Andrew MacDonald (PTO) and others making a push, the bottom of the depth chart is still very much in flux. 

Captain and recent Norris winner Mark Giordano, his longtime first-officer TJ Brodie and second-year stud Rasmus Andersson are all locks, but how the pairs shake out is anyone's guess, both short- and long-term.

What is certain is the return of the unwavering second pair of Hamonic and Hanifin, who were assembled one year ago and have been attached at the hip ever since. 

"The longer you play with somebody and the closer you are off the ice, the more you see the result of that on the ice," Hanifin said. "Me and Hammer have built a close relationship over the past year, and we stayed in touch all summer, too. Nothing too crazy, but we'd always text and talk over the phone. 'How's the family?'-type stuff, mostly. 

"He was out in Lake of the Woods with his wife and kid, while I spent most of my time in Boston, going to Cape Cod on the weekends. 

"You get away, but you never really get away. We talked shop a few times and you could tell, especially near the end of the summer, we were both ready to get back after it."

 

 

Last year, the pair played the entire season together, when healthy - more than 1,000 minutes over 69 games, while putting up a 54.75% Corsi in the process. 

Barring injury, including Hamonic's eight-game absence due to a broken jaw, you can bet the duo would have played together in all 82. 

Still, the very concept is utterly mind-bending.

How rare is it for players go an entire year on the same pair - one, forging a new career high in points (Hanifin, 33) - only to return in the same spot the following fall, ready for an encore? 

That kind of stability is something both players are thankful for. 

"You spend that much time with someone, whether it's practice or a game, you really begin to understand that person," Hamonic said. "Where he's going to be, how he's going to play a certain situation… You feed off each other, one-on-one, and I think that helps a lot.

"It's like your relationship with people off the ice in everyday life. Sometimes you have chemistry with certain people and sometimes you don't. 

"For him and I, it clicked right away last year and kept building throughout the year."

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