New York Islanders’ Travis Hamonic Helps Kids Cope With the Loss Of a Parent
By Matt Petrero
New York Islanders’ defenseman, Travis Hamonic is in the upper echelon of blue-liners in the NHL. He is an integral part of a young team that went from league doormat just four years ago to Eastern Conference contenders. He is part of a group of players who have grown together in the Islanders’ organization, creating a tight knit, family-like environment in the dressing room, which has translated to synchronicity on the ice.
So why would Hamonic approach the team’s hierarchy and request a trade; a trade that could land him on a team like the Edmonton Oilers, which has no chance at a playoff appearance in 2016? (In fact, the Oilers have not made the playoffs since 2006 and there is seemingly no playoff run for the foreseeable future)
The 25-year-old St. Malo, Manitoba native has another tight-knit group of people to whom he feels more emotionally dedicated and to whom he desires to be geographically closer: his family. They are not like most other close families though. The Hamonic family was forever galvanized by an unthinkable tragedy. On September 15, 2000, Travis’ father, Gerry, suffered a massive heart attack while sleeping and though he was stretchered out of the house, still alive, the damage had been done. Gerry passed away shortly thereafter at the age of 44. Travis, a devastated 10-year-old, lost the most important person in his life.
“He was my super hero” Hamonic beamed as he told ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp about his dad. “He was someone I felt more safe with in this wold than anyone else could ever imagine”.
A year after Gerry’s death, Travis’ mom, Lisa Hamonic, sold the family farm and in 2003, moved with Travis to Winnipeg. The Western Canadian city is where he would sharpen his skills and start becoming noticed as an emerging, top talent in the area. A recognition that would get him drafted 56th overall in the 2008 draft by New York.
Still, with his hockey career blooming, Travis was still eaten up by the pain he felt by the loss of his father. His quiet and shy persona would prohibit him from opening up to anybody about his feelings.
“I really didn’t talk much about my Dad’s death. I didn’t open up to anyone about it. I was really just able to get away from the world and shut everyone out”, confessed Hamonic.
Since Gerry’s passing, Travis has always had a feeling that his father was with him, and on November 24th, 2010, Gerry must have pulled some strings in heaven. At 20 years old, Travis was called up to the Islanders from their farm team in Bridgeport, CT. He has been a fixture on the Isles blue line ever since and is part of their top defensive pairing. He is also the team leader in ice time at over 23 minutes per game.
And that is where the newly minted NHL star was able to put the grief of his father’s death to good use; for himself and for others. In 2012, The young defenseman approached Islanders front office with an idea. Travis pitched an idea to form a division of the Islanders main children’s charity arm. In 2013, The Hamonic D Partner Program was formed as part of The New York Islanders Children’s Foundation.
“I wish I would have had any sort of guidance at some point in my life of how to deal with it. I really had to start reevaluating what’s going on and how I was handling my grief,” Hamonic said. “I felt being humble and quiet about it was the best way for me to get by and the best way to not think about it. But it just caused me to think about it more and more. I couldn’t block it out any longer”.
The realization of the need to talk it out led him to the formation of the program. Once Islanders’ games are over, Hamonic heads to the dressing room, sheds some of his several pounds of equipment, grabs some hockey sticks and other memorabilia, then meets with kids who have experienced the same tragic loss of a parent. This is not a situation of making a cameo appearance and signing a few autographs for a photo op. He spends quality time with them, talks to them like an older brother, and gives them hope that they, like he, can work through their grief. He even goes as far as to give these kids his email address in case they need to contact him for any reason.
As fulfilling as helping these children is, Travis admits that these meetings are as therapeutic for himself as it is for them. Travis sums it up this way,
“They always think that I’m helping them…but they’re helping me”.
You can watch the full segment of this story from ESPN E:60, entitled “In the Name Of the Father” below.
Postscript: The Islanders are looking to accommodate Hamonic’s request of a trade to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Calgary, of some other relatively close NHL city to Winnipeg. As of yet, no deal has been made but both parties are showing patience and are empathetic of the other’s dilemma. Chances are that a deal will not be made until the NHL’s offseason begins.
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