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HAMONIC RIGHT AT HOME AT THE 'DOME

The defenceman has a lengthy history at the Saddledome

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

For new digs, the whole setting seemed happily, comfortably familiar.

"I spent a lot of time during my junior career with Moose Jaw and Brandon coming through here,'' Travis Hamonic was reminiscing Monday.

"I don't know how to explain it, but for me this building always had this … feel.

"So whenever I'd come back with the Islanders after I reached the NHL, all these memories would flood back. Kind of nostalgia, you know?

"I've had some fun games in this rink. Now to be on the other side, seeing the (home dressing) room, throwing this jersey on, it's awesome. Absolutely awesome. A dream come true.

"Honestly.

"I watched so many Flames' games growing up, they were always on TV. When I was coming through town with the junior team, you'd watch the Flames' pre-game skate.

"And you'd be there, in the stands, thinking: 'Man, that would just be unreal.'

"Now here it is.

"This is a team that's got a bright, bright future in front of it. I'm glad I'm here at the start of the ride.

"So let's get going."

A deal two years in the negotiation and nurturing came finally to fruition Friday at the NHL Draft in Chicago.

In being officially introduced as a member of the Flaming C family, Hamonic slipped on the No. 24, with the blessing of assistant GM Craig Conroy, who, of course, used to model it himself.

"Some pretty good players have worn that number,'' reminded Conroy, simulating a playful chest-swell. "Pep. Jiri Hudler, a major trophy winner.

"And don't forget Jarome (Iginla), too. At least for a little while.

"I was joking with Travis: 'Oh well, there goes the number.' But it couldn't belong to a better person. Everything you hear about him, for what he does with his foundation, talking to people who know him, have been around him, just a first-class person.

"Besides, if I think of myself in connection with any number, it's 22. Let's be honest, that's my real number. Out of my 1,000 games, I betcha 800 are in No. 22, here, St. Louis and going to L.A.

"I just had 24 at the end, when I came back to Calgary."

The man who brokered the transaction with the NY Islanders on the draft floor, Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, has assembled quite a formidable force on the back end.

Adding Hamonic to a group that already includes Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton arguably provides the Flames with a top-four defence corps the rival of any around.

"I still think winning in this league, having as deep a blue line as you possibly can gives you the best chance,'' Treliving reasoned.

"What I like about them all, they can play today's game. They can transition pucks, they all can move. Travis is more known as a defender with an edge but he can play second powerplay.

"So I like our mobility, there's a little variance but they can all skate, they can all defend.

"So I like the looks of the group but (defence) is an area you really want to build from but we're going to poke around and see if there's still more we can do."

For a place that seemed always to be pulling him towards it, Hamonic had a slight problem actually getting here to Calgary, to the 'Dome, initially, on Monday.

The scheduled flight for he and wife Stephanie out of Winnipeg for a media unveiling was cancelled.

"Wasn't snowing,'' he joked. "I woke up and saw what had happened with the flight. And I'm thinking: 'Today, of all days …'

"They were pretty quick, though. Before I could even freak out they were booking me another flight.

"So I made it.

"I'm here.

"And it's so worth it."

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