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Brodie and Hamonic becoming the standout defence pairing everyone envisioned

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

It was, in essence, something along the lines of a pre-arranged marriage.

Sight-unseen, expected to create a lasting union, forming an unbreakable, airtight bond.

Make it work.

No pressure, right?

'Do you, T.J. Brodie, take Travis Hamonic to be your every-shift defence partner from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until the season do you part?'

The answer was always destined to be: I do. 

And, to their credit, they have. They are.

Because literally the instant Flames' GM Brad Treliving confirmed increasing conjecture, announcing Hamonic's capture from the NY Islanders on the NHL Draft floor at the United Centre in Chicago four months ago, the inevitability of Hamonic-Brodie as a 1-1A pairing to complement skipper Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton implanted itself in everyone's minds.

After all, they seemed so impossibly well-suited: Hamonic, the well-rounded, edgy, hard-to-play-against cornerstone; and Brodie, as smooth as the felt on a billiard tabletop; who seems to skim over the ice surface carried along on some form of personal hovercraft.

"I understand that perspective,'' says Hamonic, of the anticipation among Flames' faithful. "And it's probably a cliche answer but we're hockey players and as a player you can't really control what goes on around you.

"Obviously there was a lot of hype, a lot of talk, in the summer. With TJ and myself, it's been good. Every day, every game, I think we're better understanding how we're going to play together.

"Situational play on the ice; where he's going to be; what he's going to do."

Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the arranged partnership enjoyed its most polished performance of the young season in that 5-2 bounce-back win out west-coast way.

"I thought Hamonic was just an absolute beast in Vancouver," praised Treliving, as the Flames wound up a practice Tuesday morning at the Stampede Corral.

"With the penalty killing, his physical play. Such a complete player. Sometimes with Travis you don't necessarily notice him as much. He jumps up in the rush and obviously scored a goal (against the Canucks) but his game is more around his net, playing against top players, playing hard against top players.

"I think, as a pair, they've stabilized us. TJ's been exceptional so far and Travis has allowed him a degree of freedom. Hammer anchors that other side which allows TJ to do what TJ does, which is to get involved offensively."

Brodie's former defence sidekick, Giordano, predicts nothing but escalating acclaim for the partnership.

"Hammer's really powerful, takes the body a lot but he's smart, makes good reads," he said.

"Both of them skate really well. That's the one part of Hammer's game that people don't realize, where he's a little underrated. He moves up and down the ice really well. Makes the simple, right play all the time. That goes a long way for Brodes. That's why you're seeing a little more offence from him early on.

"They're playing great. They've jelled. And as the season goes on I think you're just going to see more and more of that."

Against the Canucks, Hamonic logged 22:38, Brodie 26:07. They were, along with the stalwart Giordano-Hamilton tandem, a major reason the Flames survived an onslaught of early penalties.

Coach Glen Gulutzan echoed his general manager's sentiments about the pair's contribution to a 4-2 start in general and the Vancouver W in particular.

"Going through video, I thought our D as a whole was very strong, especially through the penalty-kill,'' said Gulutzan. "You can see Hammer's game starting to get to a new level. I'm glad there's some chemistry between him and Brodes. Just such a valuable part to our team right now. We knew that going in, when Tre made the deal this summer.

"He's settling in nicely.

"You always hope those things 'take.' It's just like putting two good, smart hockey players together. They're going to click at some point."

That click, the tumblers falling into alignment, is happening quickly.

"We're getting to know each other. The longer you play with someone, the easier it is,'' reasoned Brodie. "Reading off each other, knowing what kind of plays he likes to make.

"It's just one of those things that time helps. He's good at everything. Just makes it easier for me.

"Sometimes there's chemistry. Sometimes there's not. So far, it's been good."

And, early indications hint, possibly great.

Away from the rink, Hamonic, a St. Malo, Man. product, and wife Stephanie, are - thanks for asking - settling in just fine.

"Everybody,'' he said, "is making us feel super welcome. The aspects of being Calgarians, living here and being part of the community, is something that's important to us, that we wanted to dive right into.

"It's neat to wake up, see the open space and the mountains. Having those surrounding you on a day-to-day basis when leaving the rink certainly puts you in a good mood.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable."

A proud smile.

"Haven't used my GPS in a while."

Off the ice or, every bit as importantly, on it.

Brodie, either.

Which is, of course, the whole point of the exercise in creating a last defensive union, pre-arranged or not.



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