Pickup hockey is commonplace in North America. In cold areas across Canada and the United States, an iced down street or local pond can be the most populated local hangout for young hockey enthusiasts. But what happens when an NHL first round, second round, and third round draft pick are all in the game?
"It made for some pretty intense games of backyard hockey," said Islanders prospect Travis Hamonic
Hamonic, an Islanders 2008 second round pick, grew up on the outskirts of Winnipeg, just down the street from one of the up-and-coming first families of hockey, the Toews. Jonathan Toews, the third overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, was the runner-up for rookie of the year honors last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. His younger brother, David, was drafted in 2008 in the third round by the Islanders, and took part in Islanders Prospects Camp earlier this summer with his childhood friend Hamonic.
"It's awesome just being here with him. I actually didn't even realize I'd been drafted back in June, because I was skating in a workout at the University of North Dakota. I got a text message from Travis saying that I'd been drafted by the Islanders, and that he had been as well."
Growing up, the Toews backyard ice hockey rink was the place to be on the block. In fact, it was almost never empty.
"We always had a ton of kids over at my house, skating on the backyard rink," said Toews. "Our house was like a community center, the entire neighborhood would be over, playing in a pickup game. We always had a pretty high level of play, just within the backyard. Now, being on the ice together again, it's just been a lot of fun to relive old times."
Hamonic agreed that the Toews house was the place to be and that even now he's somewhat of a fixture with their family.
|David Toews |
"We've known each other since we were seven," said Hamonic. "When we were younger and in school, we would go back to David's house for lunch and shoot pucks in his backyard rink. That might've even been the reason we showed up late for school every once in a while. I'm always over at their house and hanging out. When I'm there, it's just me, David and Jon, and when we're hanging out, it's not really like I'm with the Jonathan Toews--the NHL player."
Prospects Camp marked the first time Toews and Hamonic had skated together since last year. In 2007, the two of them were on Team Manitoba, helping to bring the team to its highest finish in the Canada Games, winning the silver medal.
Then, on draft day, the two childhood friends were drafted by the same team, only 13 picks apart. When asked if there was any sort of competition between the two of them over who would be drafted first, Hamonic laughed, but said they weren't really too concerned about when they were selected.
"We did an interview for a French language newspaper," said Hamonic, "and they were razzing us a little bit over which of us would go first, since we were ranked right in the same area, but we weren't really too worried about who went first or second."
Ever since the Toews brothers moved onto Hamonic's block when they were both seven, the friends have seemed destined to play hockey together. Now, it is entirely possible that the two will once again be on the ice together—this time in the NHL.