LAS VEGAS -- New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was 10 years old when his father, Gerald, died of a heart attack.
After tireless work to help end the stigma that often leads males to avoid discussing their grief, Hamonic received the NHL Foundation Player Award at the 2017 NHL Humanitarian Awards at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday.
"Grief is something that in 2017 is not discussed as much as other things. Quite frankly, it's a huge factor in a lot of people's lives," Hamonic said. "There are lot of people doing unbelievable work, and I just happened to have a situation so close to my heart that I felt I was best able to recognize an opportunity to do something."
Hamonic, 26, has bonded with more than 200 children who have lost a parent at a young age through his D-Partner Program. He has spent more than $50,000 hosting D-Partner Program participants at Islanders homes games, providing rink-side seats, VIP treatment and meet-and-greets.
Hamonic allows children to discuss their own loss and shares his own experience of being awakened in the middle of the night by his screaming sister while his father was wheeled into an ambulance following a massive heart attack. Gerald Hamonic was 44.
"The realization is it happened to us and my family. The realization is it's happened to so many other people," said Hamonic, the youngest of four children. "There are a lot of great causes and a lot of stuff that a lot of people need help with. I think this is one avenue that maybe isn't discussed publicly."
The award, which was presented by former NHL goaltender Marty Turco, is given to "an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey -- commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community."
The other finalist for the award was Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano won the award last year.
Hamonic hosts a child dealing with the loss of one or both parents at every Islanders home game.
"I struggled with it when I was younger," Hamonic said. "As you get older, it's not cool to talk about your emotions and what you have to go through. I think just knowing that it's OK, whatever you're feeling is normal."
Selected by the Islanders in the second round (No. 53) of the 2008 NHL Draft, Hamonic has 146 points (26 goals, 120 assists) in 444 games over seven seasons, all with New York. He is the 20th recipient of the NHL Foundation Player Award, which started in 1997-98.
Hamonic's future with the Islanders is uncertain; he asked to be traded in September 2015 in hopes of moving closer to his family in Western Canada. He rescinded the request last offseason, but there have been reports recently of Hamonic's name being mentioned in trade talks.
Hamonic declined to discuss his playing future, wanting the focus to be on the D-Partner Program.
The NHL Foundation will present $25,000 to the chosen charitable organization of Hamonic's choice. His honor will also be recognized at the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
Hamonic hugged his mother on stage after posing for pictures following the ceremony on Tuesday.
"I know that being a guy and being sad and dealing with your emotions is not always the most common thing to do publicly," Hamonic said. "I think it's pretty important if we can try to discuss grief and the process of it and let everyone know that what happens in your own personal life is completely normal."