was just six-years-old when the Winnipeg Jets left the province of Manitoba. Fifteen years later, he still remembers what it was like to watch his hometown team leave.
“I remember going to the Jets rally and my parents donating money to try to keep the Jets in the city, as many families did during those years,” Hamonic said. “I remember not really understanding what was going on when the Jets left because I was only six, but I remember understanding that it was something pretty big.”
|Steven Stamkos and Travis Hamonic play for position in front of the net during the first period at Nassau Coliseum on October 13, 2011. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images) |
Now 21-years-old, the Isles blue-liner said he got to understand and grasp the spirit of Jets fans and what they meant to the city as he got older, going watch the Manitoba Moose or the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a team in the Canadian Football League, and still have the fans break out in “Go-Jets-Go” chants.
“As a Winnipegger, I think it’s really good for the city,” Hamonic said.
Claude Noel, Head Coach of the Jets, has seen the city’s love first hand.
“There’s been quite a frenzy here (in Winnipeg), being dormant for 15 years without an NHL team,” Noel said. “So it’s been quite a frenzy there and it’s been an adjustment for the players a little bit, especially early. But it’s really good. They embrace us at home and have been really supportive.”
Hamonic knows exactly what that’s like. Growing up in the small farming town of St. Malo, Manitoba, the sophomore defenseman said it was impossible not to fall in love with hockey. Freezing cold winters, tons of snow, and a hockey rink just a short distance from home.
“Growing up, there was church, school and the hockey rink,” Hamonic said. “It was a small town, that’s the old notion of what it is, but that’s what it’s like for me growing up.”
That’s what it was like for all Winnipeggers.
“Every time I talk to someone back home, whether it’s my friends or family, it seems like someone is always talking about the Jets and what they’re doing,” Hamonic said. “It’s happy to see a lot of people in Winnipeg get that baby back, their team back. I think as a community, that’s well deserved.”
The Islanders will not play a game in Winnipeg until Dec. 20th, but Hamonic is already pumped for the occasion, though he said he’ll be careful about not getting too hyped to play.
You grow up cheering for a team and watching a team and trying to be a part of a team. I’m very happy to be doing that now and even happier to be doing it as a New York Islander. I love New York. - Travis Hamonic
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there and we fly into Winnipeg, but tonight is obviously a childhood dream of mine,” Hamonic said. “You grow up cheering for a team and watching a team and trying to be a part of a team. I’m very happy to be doing that now and even happier to be doing it as a New York Islander. I love New York.”
So even though he’s facing a team from his hometown that he thought he would never get to face, and his mother is flying in for the game, Hamonic is still hoping the Islanders will edge the Jets.
He said, “New York is my home now so hopefully we can come out with the guys here and get two points.”