left his home at age 16 to play junior hockey. Five years later, in his second season with the Islanders, not being home for the holidays and seeing his siblings, nieces and nephews only a few times each year is the norm.
Like many kids in Canada who dream of playing in the National Hockey League,
One thing is very different this season, though. Last year, the Isles would have been headed to Atlanta, Georgia for Tuesday night’s game. This time, the Isles defenseman returns to Winnipeg to play an NHL game in his home province for the first time, as the NHL returned a franchise to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence. Hamonic grew up a die-hard Winnipeg Jets fan before the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996, when Hamonic was six-years-old.
|Travis Hamonic skates against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nassau Coliseum on December 8, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images) |
“It’s going be a dream come true,” Hamonic said of playing so close to home Tuesday night. “I grew up a huge NHL fan and having a chance to play an NHL game in my home province like that, so close to home, it’s exciting. It’s going to be an exciting time for me, but maybe even more so for my family.”
Growing up on a farm an hour south of Manitoba’s capital, family has always been a big part of Hamonic’s life. He left that farm at age 14 to move to Winnipeg and shoot for his dream on the ice. So being able to spend this moment with between 80-100 of his closest family and friends is a moment he’ll remember forever.
“It’s nice to have my family and friends come out and support me,” Hamonic said. “They’ve supported me throughout my career, so this is just an exciting opportunity to play a game in front of a lot of people that wouldn’t have the opportunity to come watch me play in New York.
“For example, my grandparents, they are thrilled and they are both old and traveling isn’t the easiest thing on them. So this might be one of the only times this year they’ll see me play live. They are obviously very excited.”
So even though Hamonic shelled out some big bucks to bring everyone important in his life to the game, he said it is worth it.
“With our schedule the way it is, I won’t have an opportunity to come home for Christmas this year, so it’s nice with this game being so close to Christmas,” Hamonic said. “My brother will be there, my sisters will be there, my nieces and nephews will be there, my grandparents, everyone will be there.”
|Islanders d-man Travis Hamonic rides an ATV during his youth in St. Malo, Manitoba. |
Sunday night, Hamonic shared a home-cooked meal with his family. But when he wakes up Tuesday morning, it's game day and he will be focused.
“It’s an exciting time, but come Tuesday, all that’s put aside,” Hamonic said. “By no means is this a vacation for me. It’s a business trip and I have to approach it that way. Come Tuesday, it’s business as usual and I’m looking forward to a big game. We want to come out with the big points. That’s going to be a big conference rival for us right now.”
That rivalry may dwindle next year as the NHL realigns. The Isles will make an annual trip to the ‘Peg, but will only face the Jets twice a year as opposed to the four contests they have this year. For this season, Hamonic and the Isles can make his return to Manitoba even sweeter.
Welcome home Travis.