Prior to Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, media reports suggested that Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic would be out of the lineup with a sprained ankle. Hamonic must not have gotten the message.
Two days earlier, playing in front of his friends and family, Hamonic’s night didn’t end quite as well as he would have hoped.
“My foot stayed one direction and my body twisted and went the other direction,” Hamonic said. “I knew right away there’s something severely wrong with my ankle.”
Doctors confirmed that he had suffered an ankle sprain during the third period. Unfortunately for the third-year NHLer and the Islanders, with play stuck in the defensive zone on the penalty kill, Hamonic was unable to get back to the bench. Before play stopped, Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien fired a slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov.
The St. Malo, Manitoba native attempted to play his next two shifts, but with Hamonic essentially playing on one leg, the training staff held him off the ice the rest of the game.
“At that point you don’t want to be an idiot and you want to do what’s best for the team,” Hamonic said. “I didn’t want to be a liability out there and it killed, but it was nice to stay on the bench.”
Just two days later, the Islanders faced a tough test in Pittsburgh. Despite being in a walking boot leading up to the Penguins game, Hamonic was determined to play.
“It was going to take a lot more than a badly sprained ankle to keep me out of that game,” Hamonic said. “Any sort of injury that I’m told I can just bear with the pain, but can play through it, it’s not even a question. Without hesitation I want to play every time. I want to go out there and battle.”
And battle he did. Against the Pens, the 6’2, 203-pound force on the blueline had a plus-1 rating, played over 25 minutes and tied for the game lead with three blocked shots. “The Hammer’s” tough-as-nails attitude was put to the test just two minutes into the game when he took a slap shot to his injured left ankle. Hamonic remained in the game to help the Islanders earn two points against the division rival.
After the win, Hamonic strapped on the walking boot again for two days before shedding it for the team’s next road test against New Jersey. He played over 28 minutes in the overtime win, the second highest TOI on the team. He also added an assist on the Islanders’ second goal of the game.
Zero Man Games Lost It’s easy to see whom Hamonic learns from. Head Coach Jack Capuano is technically the only member of the Islanders who has missed a game to due injury this season. Capuano missed the opening game of the season due to emergency kidney stone surgery, though it took strong convincing from team doctors for Capuano to finally give in a short time before puck drop. Less than two weeks later in New Jersey, an errant puck struck Capuano above his left eye, requiring five stitches.
“It’s been unbelievable with the kidney stone surgery and now getting hit in the face with a puck. It’s just the way it goes,” Capuano said.
Islanders fans have seen Hamonic battle through injury before. Last season, during the third period of a 4-3 loss against the Buffalo Sabres, Hamonic took a Christian Ehrhoff shot directly to the face. Hamonic came off the ice bloody and told the medical staff to stitch him back up quickly so he could return to the game.
READ: HAMONIC RECOUNTS GRUESOME NIGHT
“I actually got into a huge argument with our training staff. I’m trying to get back on the ice, but I was told very nicely to get undressed or I would be escorted out by the paramedics.”
He had suffered a broken nose and required emergency surgery.
For Hamonic, playing through pain is not just personal, but a testament to his fellow NHL brethren.
“An injury in general just takes a lot of heart,” Hamonic said. “It shows just how dedicated we are as a whole to each other and our team.”
Hamonic knows he is extremely fortunate to play in NHL for a living. There is no chance he’s going to let a little pain get in the way of that.