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NHL Heritage Classic

Hamonic thrilled with second chance to play outdoors in Heritage Classic

Flames defenseman was injured in 2014, missed game at Yankee Stadium when with Islanders

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

CALGARY -- Travis Hamonic is getting a second chance to take his game outdoors.

The Calgary Flames defenseman, who missed the opportunity to represent the New York Islanders against the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium five years ago, is eagerly anticipating playing the Winnipeg Jets at the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, CITY, TVAS2, NHL.TV).

The 29-year-old sustained a concussion a week before the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series.

 

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"It was unfortunate I missed that game," Hamonic said. "It was cool just to be around the atmosphere a bit, kind of take in everything that was going on.

"Obviously Yankee Stadium is a pretty legendary thing to begin with. That's a really cool venue and whenever you get to play the Rangers it's a huge rivalry. It was neat on a bunch of different levels and unfortunate I had to watch that one from the side.

"Hopefully I get to the next one okay and be ready to play in that game. I'm looking forward to it and I know my family and friends are looking forward to it as well. I'm excited. It'll be a neat experience."

The game will serve as a homecoming of sorts for Hamonic.

He was born in St. Malo, Manitoba, fewer than 400 miles from Regina, and played his junior hockey for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League, just 44 miles from Mosaic Stadium.

Hamonic is well aware of the anticipated divide in allegiances based on geography.

"It's kind of a cool place to have the game, between Winnipeg and us," he said. "I imagine the crowd will be pretty split. It'll be a great atmosphere. There are great hockey fans in Saskatchewan. They support their teams tremendously, and obviously support their football team (Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League). They love sports in Saskatchewan. It's going to be exciting.

"I'm looking forward to it. It's kind of neat our two teams are playing each other. There are tons of fans in Saskatchewan that are both Flames and Winnipeg fans. I think it'll be a really neat atmosphere. It's a relatively brand new stadium. The facilities are going to be great and hopefully the weather's nice and we're good to go."

Admittedly, Hamonic isn't experienced in playing outdoors.

Growing up in a small community, the doors to the local arena were seemingly unlocked whenever necessary.

"What's ironic is we had a big lake in town but being a town of 500 people where we grew up, we always had access to a rink," Hamonic said. "I honestly didn't really play much outdoor hockey when I was a kid. I never really did the outdoor hockey. I was always kind of lucky to get on the ice whenever I wanted to in a rink. It wasn't until I was much older [that] I started doing the whole outdoor rink with my friends."

He'll get his chance Saturday. And waiting for the outdoor experience has only heightened the anticipation.

"There's been a handful of guys who have been around games like this," Hamonic said. "The whole atmosphere, you owe it to yourself to just take a moment to look around and appreciate the venue and appreciate the atmosphere and what kind of event you're playing in.

"I have a chance now to do it in Western Canada, at home, and the Prairie Provinces certainly are close to my heart, so I think it'll be better this time around."

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