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Hamonic on the mend

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
You are standing in front of your net and a defenseman tees up a 100 mph slap shot from the blue line. The frozen rubber puck hits a stick in the slot and with no time to react, the puck catches you under your visor and square in the face. You fall to the ice and when you remove your hands from your face, all you see is red.

Travis Hamonic is helped by trainers after being hit in the face with a deflected puck.
For Travis Hamonic, this frightening situation played out in an unfortunate, grisly reality on Feb. 4. Facing the Buffalo Sabres, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff’s howitzer deflected off of Frans Nielsen’s stick and struck Hamonic in the nose. The Islanders defenseman immediately hit the ice and was rushed to hospital. He has been sidelined since.

“When I first got hit in the nose, I felt the pain right away and it felt like my face was basically numb,” he said. “Instantly there was a lot of blood. I remember just thinking that my nose was inverted. I thought it was dented in. I didn’t think it was there anymore.”

With blood pouring from his face, Hamonic and team doctors’ first reaction was that the shot broke his nose and cut it badly. The Islanders reigning defensive ironman of 113 consecutive games wanted to return and finish the game, but the situation was too dire.

“I shattered my nose and ripped my septum off,” he said. “As many stitches that I had in front and inside in the back, it was a lot more than a typical broken nose that some people thought it was at first.

“People know me and what kind of character I have. To keep me out of the lineup, it’s got to be something pretty significant.”

The Islanders training staff rushed him off the ice, into the locker room and eventually to the hospital. Hamonic, team doctors and even doctors at North Shore LIJ didn’t anticipate the extent of the damage until he went in for surgery Sunday morning.

“It was a scary moment for me,” Hamonic said. “I didn’t think it was that severe. You realize it’s pretty dangerous when a lot of doctors and plastic surgeons and a lot of people are looking at you.”

"Someone was looking after me out there and helped me turn my head at the last second and made sure I didn’t damage my eyes in any way. From a spiritual standpoint, I’m pretty grateful that it wasn’t a lot worse than it was" - Travis Hamonic
After surgery, Hamonic was kept in the hospital for five days. He couldn’t eat for risk of infecting the stitches in his nose, couldn’t raise his heart rate for fear of bursting the stitches and had tubes and padding blocking up his nose.

“It was five days of hell,” Hamonic said.

Hamonic’s mother, Lisa, eased the hellish 120-hour hospital stay. She made it to Long Island by Sunday afternoon to look after her son and as a registered nurse, had the proper training to do so.

“I’m pretty grateful and thankful that the Islanders took care of that for me,” Hamonic said. “It made a pretty big difference because I was in the hospital there and the team was on the road. It was first-class all the way from the Islanders organization, taking care of everything. They couldn’t have treated the situation any better.”

Once he left the hospital, Hamonic was ordered to get plenty of bed rest (10 days worth), keep activity to the minimum and focus on his recovery. If his nose became infected or started bleeding, his three to four-week timetable would go back to day one.

To his relief, Hamonic skated on Monday and is working himself back into game shape. While this type of injury usually takes four weeks to recover from, the Islanders blueliner hopes to be back sooner. 

“It’s been a long couple weeks not to play,” he said. “That’s behind me now and I’m grateful it wasn’t worse than it was.”

Moving forward requires not dwelling on or reliving the incident. Hamonic watched the play once on tape and that’s enough for him. The upbeat Hamonic is also putting things in perspective; had he not turned his head slightly at the last second, he could have taken the puck directly in his eye.

“It’s definitely a blessing from God,” he said. “Someone was looking after me out there and helped me turn my head at the last second and made sure I didn’t damage my eyes in any way. From a spiritual standpoint, I’m pretty grateful that it wasn’t a lot worse than it was.”

Hamonic skating with Evgeni Nabokov on Feb. 22 at Nassau Coliseum.l
Hamonic will don a cage when he re-takes the ice, although a return date isn’t scheduled. He’s come back from a similar injury in junior; he had his jaw shattered and wired shut for five weeks.
Still, Hamonic says he won’t shy away from blocking shots or battles in front of the net. It’s part of his identity as a player.

“Maybe now that I have the cage, you’ll see me diving in front of more with my head,” Hamonic joked.

As for where this ranks in his worst career injuries…

“It’s a toss up I guess between the two of those,” Hamonic said sitting in his stall after a one-hour session on the ice. “Hopefully it stays that way for a long time.”

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