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'START PUSHING YOURSELF'

A summer at the cabin with wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Charlie, was just what the doctor ordered for Travis Hamonic

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The project out at the lakeside cabin, initially at any rate, seemed a modest affair.

Instead, as often happens factoring in the dad-daughter dynamic, it turned into a production of IKEA-like blueprint proportions.

"A small, little playhouse became this BIG playhouse,'' laughs Travis Hamonic. "This BIG play-cabin.

"It's got a deck, and a bridge, and a slide.

"Every day I'd come to my wife and tell her I was adding a little bit more onto it.

"But for me, it was worth it, just to see at the end, her smiling."

Just off the Scotiabank Saddledome ice Tuesday following an informal skate, with training camp three weeks away, Hamonic feels the competitive engine beginning to hum again.

"Summer,'' he reports, "was good.

"Obviously it's nice to re-charge and spend some time with your family and get to be a dad. From a physical standpoint, it's nice to kinda recover from a long year, get the body moving and feeling good.

"Certainly summer was longer than we had anticipated and that's been talked about a lot but I think you get a lot of perspective as the summer goes along and motivation, as well, to get going on the next season."

 

Video: MIN@CGY: Hamonic nets wrister to cut the deficit

 

Last year was a bruising one for the warrior-like defenceman, starting with a broken jaw in the season-opener. He played beat up and hurt, often.

The summer time spent with daughter Charlie, now 16 months old, though, proved to be just the off-season tonic the doctor ordered, however.

"Just simple things like waking up in the morning and getting her out of her crib, putting her to bed, making her lunch, making her breakfast, means so much," Hamonic says, with a softness in his voice that dads everywhere can relate to.

"Every day there's a moment that pinches me, like: 'Wow! That's my daughter.' What a wonderful person she is and how fast she's growing.

"If anything, I try and slow it down a little bit.

"We don't get to do that during the season. It's a lot we give up. Obviously there are perks for what we do for a living. I'm not asking for sympathy on that.

"But there's more to life than hockey sometimes and we give up a lot of time with our family.

"So to be there every day with our family and building that relationship, that foundation with her … it's the best time in my life."

Personally, there's more joy ahead for Hamonic and wife Stephanie, with a second child due to arrive in November.

Professionally, the searing pain of the Flames' first-round April playoff exit at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche has, with the passage of time, ebbed into a dull ache.

"I think initially, at the end of the year you're obviously frustrated, (mad) by what happened, how things went," he concedes.

"We picked a bad time not to play our best. We have a lot to prove both as a group and as individuals.

"As you watch the playoffs, you look back on your own season, how things went, see teams move on. You want to get to that level. You want to win. You want to be in their shoes.

"That kind of piggybacks into some extra motivation, to push you through some of the dog-days of the summer."

 

Video: VAN@CGY: Hamonic nets Flames' second SHG

 

During his second season modelling the colours, Hamonic raised his level of play to expected heights. His burgeoning partnership alongside Noah Hanifin was a key component in the Flames' planting their flag at the summit of the Western Conference during the regular season.

"It takes a little while to ready adjust to everything,'" he says now. "Whether it's teammates, the city, surroundings. All sorts of things. I think last year I felt more comfortable. I think I'm someone who's at his best when he's comfortable in the room, with their teammates, their partner, in their life - everything like that.

"I think last year was a good year but I've got a lot to prove. A lot to keep pushing for."

While owning up to an unexpectedly early playoff dismissal in April, to a man Hamonic and his mates emphasized their staunch belief in what has been assembled here.

GM/architect Brad Treliving obviously agreed, making only two tweaks this off-season.

"I'd have to check the books but I don't know when the last time a team came back with the same team, ever," says Hamonic, five months along. "For our group, there weren't a ton of changes. Some pieces left, moved on, and we brought in some really good pieces, as well.

"But for the most part, our core is there. It's really good people in our dressing room. Everyone enjoys themselves, everyone really likes to play for each other. And I think that's a huge factor in team success, and personal success.

"So for us to have the same group back, I think speaks to what management and the coaching staff think of us as a team and as players.

"They believe in us. We believe in each other."

Charlie's lake-side cabin complete, Hamonic's itching to re-start another project near and dear to him.

A project that requires months, not weeks, and so many hands to complete.

"I think right now you're ready to get back at it, start pushing yourself physically," he says. "And just get back on the ice.

"Seems like we're wired at this time of year.

"Harvest starts. Hockey starts. So let's get back in the swing of it."

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