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Hamonic reflects on Islanders years

Flames defenseman cherishes memories in return to New York

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders hadn't won a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 23 years. When they finally got over the hump in 2016, defenseman Travis Hamonic was overwhelmed with emotion, visibly shaking in his locker room stall.

A second-round pick by the Islanders (No. 53) in the 2008 NHL Draft, Hamonic experienced several bottom-five finishes in the League standings, followed by excruciating first-round losses against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. In the series-clinching, 2-1 double overtime win against the Florida Panthers two years ago, he was on the ice for 39:06.

"It was awesome," said Hamonic, who was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24, 2017 and will play against the Islanders for the first time at Barclays Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSG+, NHL.TV). "There's a handful of us that kind of started together. Our first couple of years in the League, there was a lot of ups and downs, and then we obviously had the buildup, having not won a playoff series in that long. 

"I think you guys were accustomed to seeing how passionate I was about the game and playing. To win that game … at that time, I remember being relieved because it was double overtime and I was exhausted. Obviously, you're just so proud. We had a good group that year. … There's a lot of proud memories over seven years. You don't erase that; that's stuck in your blood for a long time." 

Hamonic had requested a trade from the Islanders in the fall of 2015 for personal reasons, which he rescinded at the end of the season. He confirmed Sunday he had not requested a trade again following last season.

Tweet from @NHLFlames: "It's certainly weird being on this side of things. Wasn't too sure where I was going this morning." - Travis Hamonic joking about his return to face his former team

"I was surprised," Hamonic said of the trade to Calgary. "Those things happen. You realize that changes are always going to be made. I think I look back at it more so extremely proud that I was able to be somewhere for seven years.

"I'll be an old guy one day and I'll look back at my time here as an Islander and be extremely proud of wearing that jersey because of what it means and how passionate people are here."

Islanders coach Doug Weight was Hamonic's teammate in New York before retiring in 2011. He admitted it will be weird to see Hamonic on the other side of the ice Sunday.

"He played every shift like it was going to be his last," Weight said. "He'd do anything to try to win: block shots, fight … definitely a big part of our team."

That's what Hamonic has become in Calgary (28-19-8), which enters Sunday two points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Hamonic has seven points, an even rating and is averaging 20:23 of ice time in 51 games this season.

"He's meant a lot," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We knew what kind of player we were getting obviously, there's no secrets in the League, but you're not always sure what you're going to get, and we knew what kind of person he was. Just some of the leadership he brings to the locker room; he's a vocal guy for us on a team that we're not that vocal.

"He's all right to say something and pump up the team and let us know where we are in the game. We needed that. We knew we were getting a good player, but we didn't realize we were getting a guy that could help us in that area."

The Flames will certainly need Hamonic's help against the Islanders, but it may take a few shifts before it feels like just another hockey game.

"Kind of a weird morning so far," Hamonic said. "We came off the bus, and I realized I go right instead of left. These are fans and obviously teammates I played with for so long and a place I called home for such a long time. I'm excited to get out there and play in front of them and play as hard as ever and help my team. We're in a playoff race here. I've been around long enough to know you've got to park your emotions." 

Hamonic continues to host children who have lost a parent at an early age after every Flames home game, much like he did during his time with the Islanders. Hamonic lost his father, Gerald, to a heart attack when he was 10 years old. 

"We have a voice in the community," Hamonic said. "Every year, I really try to up my community work. I think it's just your duty to be a good person, try to help others around you." 

After seven years in New York, he and his wife, Stephanie, have settled in nicely in Calgary. The family is about to grow; the couple is expecting their first child, a daughter, in April.

"It's been a good fit for us," Hamonic said. "I think everything works out as it's supposed to. It's been kind of a good year for me and my family and the spot that we landed.

"I'm gonna learn how to be a dad. I had a pretty good one, and a pretty good mom to learn from as well. We're getting super excited for that." 

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