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They're Goin' Home

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

Travis Hamonic's Guide to Winnipeg
What’s on the menu at home?
Steak and Potates

Where will you send the guys to eat?
Earl's

How many people are coming to the game?
75-90

Does playing at home ever get old?
Never, I love Winnipeg

Thomas Hickey's Guide to Calgary
What’s on the menu at home?
Steak, Baked Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Caesar Salad

Where will you send the guys to eat?
Caesar’s Steakhouse

How many people are coming to the game?
Hundreds.

Does playing at home ever get old?
Not really, but I’ve only done it once as a pro and twice in juniors

Johnny Boychuk's Guide to Edmonton
What’s on the menu?
Coliseum Steak and Pizza

How many people are coming to the game?
Upwards of 30

Does playing at home ever get old?
No.

What would you suggest for someone to do in Edmonton?
Tobogganing

It’s said that once you leave, you can never really go home again.

Many of the New York Islanders would disagree. You can always go home – and the experience never gets old.

Three Islanders, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Johnny Boychuk, are natives of Western Canada and are relishing the chance to skate in front of family and friends this week.

Trips home are usually quick and eventful, one-to-three day jaunts that are rejuvenating, if not always relaxing.

“Any guy will tell you it’s a little hectic and stressful,” Hickey, a Calgary, AB, native, said. “Just trying to get tickets together and see a lot of people in a short amount of time, it’s not easy, but it’s enjoyable.”

Ticket requests can come in by the tens and even hundreds. With so many people and so little time, it’s impossible to see everyone for a meaningful amount of time, but the guys do the best they can.

A player’s first NHL trip home is an event, said Boychuk, who hails from Edmonton. He expects to have upwards of 30 people at Rexall Place on Saturday.

“You have so many people at the game watching you, wanting to see you after, there’s so much stuff going on,” he said. “It’s more of an event the first time you go back, but now that I’ve been back before, it’s more businesslike.”

This particular trip will be a big event for the Boychuk family, but the Islanders defenseman isn’t the star of the show. The Boychuk’s are celebrating their twin daughters’ first birthday in Edmonton, flying out from Long Island to celebrate with the whole clan.

“It’ll be nice to go back home and have friends and family at the birthday party,” Boychuk said.

Family time is the central focus of these trips, aside from hockey, but food has to be a close second. There’s something about a home-cooked meal, the familiarity of both the tastes and atmosphere.

Steak and potatoes is on the menu at the Hickey and Hamonic households, good Prairie meals, according to the defensemen.

“Just a good Western Manitoba prairie meal,” Hamonic, a Winnipeg native, said. “Everyone always jokes about my eating habits – for not eating the most wide range of food – but a home cooked meal is going to do me some good.”

Hickey echoed the same sentiment, so he’s bypassing his favorite restaurant for Mrs. Hickey’s steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and Caesar salad. Friends are invited because last year’s trip – the tail end of a back-to-back – just went too quickly.

“It’ll feel like I’m on vacation back home,” Hickey said. “Last year it was in and out, this year we get to experience it.”

Last year was more about fulfilling a childhood dream, playing an NHL game at the Saddledome.

“You have to pinch yourself,” Hickey said. “I always hoped to play on that ice some day, so it’s pretty cool when you’re there and see the other people watching you.”

Having family, friends and old coaches watching and cheering you on is a chance for everyone who was a part of reaching the highest level of hockey share in it together for three periods.

“You have to feel fortunate that you have a lot of people to see because it means you have a lot of good people in your life,” Hamonic said. “To get a chance to play a home game in front of them is a thrill and a blessing in itself.

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