SYOSSET, N.Y. -- It seemed like a routine practice day for New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic on Thursday. He was smiling and joking with his teammates, the same way he always does.
The difference, though, was this was about an hour after he addressed the news with them reported Wednesday by Sportsnet that he requested a trade to Islanders general manager Garth Snow prior to the start of the season. Hamonic wants to be traded somewhere closer to his Winnipeg home for personal reasons.
"I would have liked to have the chance to talk to them and not have them seen it online first, but it is what it is and those things can't be changed, unfortunately," Hamonic said Thursday. "It was difficult. I guess you can ask them, but they were certainly very understanding of a personal situation, as I hope anyone would be in this situation.
"Those are guys you go to war with. Some of those guys I've been playing with for six years and really know really well. [Capuano] always talks about a brotherhood in there and everything else, but it certainly is. (I was) just explaining what was going on. It was probably one of the more difficult conversations I think I've had in life. It certainly wasn't easy, but they've been there for me for many years now in different situations in my life and my career and they've certainly been there this morning."
Hamonic, who lost his father Gerald to a heart attack when he was 10 years old, and Islanders brass managed to keep his request out of the media for several months. Nothing in Hamonic's play suggested something was going on away from the rink; he has three assists and a plus-5 rating in 19 games and leads the Islanders with an average of 23:20 of ice time per game.
"I've known for a long time," coach Jack Capuano said. "Travis and I obviously have talked about it over the last couple of months. But you can see the professionalism in him and what a teammate that he's been and what a first-class individual he's been. He gets the utmost respect from his teammates. You guys will talk to them and understand that it's a personal matter with him right now."
Hamonic is in the third season of a team-friendly contract that has an average annual value of $3.857 million. With the Islanders expected to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's hard to envision Snow trading Hamonic for prospects and/or draft picks. He's likely going to want a player who can step in and fill the void Hamonic would leave. Hamonic understands this could take a while, that Snow is simply not going to give him away.
Snow did not speak with reporters Thursday.
"I don't want to handcuff the team by any means," Hamonic said. "Garth has a job to do, and I completely understand that and I respect this process. I think I respect Garth tremendously, not just as a general manager but as a person as well. I think maybe in this business people overlook some of those things. He's going to do what he feels is best for the organization, and I've said that from the start that I signed here and I love it here. I really enjoy my teammates. Whatever Garth feels is best, it's not going to bother me. I'm ready to play here and battle hard and go to war every night. It hasn't been an issue for me so far this season. I continue to try to work hard and win here. That's our goal, and one thing I can guarantee and promise is it's not going change how I play on the ice."
"If you think Garth is just going to turn around and trade a guy, it's not happening," Capuano said. "It's going to happen if the deal is right. Travis has got a great contract as we know. He's a top-pairing defenseman in this League. He means the world to me and this hockey club. I've been around him a long time. If the right deal comes along, it comes along. For [the story] to break, it doesn't put any added pressure on our general manager. If anything, it'll probably make it tougher."
Islanders captain John Tavares has been Hamonic's teammate since the latter arrived in New York during the 2010-11 season. Tavares said he and the rest of the Islanders were understanding of Hamonic's issue and he's impressed with the way New York's defenseman has handled himself on the ice.
"It's a family in here," Tavares said. "Travis has been here for a long time. We know he wants to be here, but it's obviously for many reasons I think personally, there's things he's going through. It's important for him obviously wanting to be closer to home. For us, he's focused on helping this team and doing what he has to do to play. Nothing changes for us. He's like a brother to many of us. I've been with him here a long time, and he's a great guy.
"Being athletes, I think you learn to accept a lot of criticism, you learn to be hard on yourself and what it takes to be successful. But at the same time, you're human beings and everyone deals with a lot of things. We're there to support him, we're there for him and make sure we let him know that. Just focus on playing and I'm sure that's what he wants to do and that's what we want to do to keep things going here."
Hamonic, 25, was a second-round pick (No. 53) by the Islanders at the 2008 NHL Draft. It's the only organization he's ever known professionally. Starting with owner Charles Wang, he's grateful of the relationships that have been built over the past seven years and for the way Snow is handling this difficult task of trying to accommodate Hamonic while not doing anything to hinder the Islanders' chances this season and beyond.
"(I'm) handling it in strides," Hamonic said. "The root of all this is a personal family matter of mine that I hold dear to my heart. Obviously, things about my family have been well-documented in the past, but I think in this situation, it's probably as far as I'm going to go with it. It's a personal family matter.
"I probably wouldn't want to get into more detail, but I think the Islanders have been great with me throughout this whole process. I know people are going to say and write what they want and all that stuff, but it has nothing to do with the organization or how I've been treated here six years as playing and another two or three since I've been drafted. I've been honestly treated like gold from the start. Charles has been great, I've had a great relationship with him. I think maybe a lot of players don't have that good of (relationship) or are close to their owners. He's been unbelievable. [Capuano] has been one of the best coaches that I've played for.
"When we talked about his, Garth and I … I feel it was more on a personal level definitely. It wasn't just a player/GM thing. It was something that … he understands what this means for me and how difficult it is. He's really been there for me, and I can't thank him enough. Obviously I didn't intend for this to happen at all the way that it is. But I'm forced to deal with it."