It has been a dramatic, emotional summer of change for Travis Hamonic.
But for those who know anything about the 28-year-old product of a Manitoba farm, he’s defined by so much more than the game he plays.
In the spring he became a father.
And life as he knew it turned on May 2 in a fashion far more dramatic than he ever thought possible.
“It changed my life 100 per cent,” said Hamonic.
“My biggest fear in life is to not be there to walk Charlie down the aisle. That little girl is my life. To not be there to watch her graduate, and not be there to watch her have kids … it makes me emotional to talk about because I went through it. What I went through as a young man without my father makes me scared to not be there for her.”
Hamonic’s life has been shaped, in large part, by the fatal heart attack his father suffered when Hamonic was just 10 years old. As part of his journey of healing he runs a program that sees him host and counsel young children who have lost a parent after every home game.
He also started a program this year called the Northern Project that saw the Metis native and wife Stephanie fly in indigenous children from remote Canadian territories for a game and an all-expenses paid weekend in Calgary.
So inspired by his summer of diaper changes and sleep deprivation, he was motivated to start another goodwill program that will soon be unveiled, making him a natural to eventually win the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award Mark Giordano won last summer.
“I’ve only been a parent for four months but when you become a parent you’re living for someone else completely – my outlook is to appreciate all the moments I have with her,” said Hamonic while standing in the midst of fans celebrating Humboldt Hockey Day late last week.
“Coming to something like this as a parent now I could never fathom what some of these parents had to go through. It’s here you really realize how fragile life is.
“By far the best thing I’ll ever do in my life, is be Charlie’s dad. It’s been the highlight of my summer and the highlight of my life.”
Clearly a man of tremendous emotion, passion and drive, Hamonic has channeled it all in a way you wish every athlete would.
In uniform, he’s the ultimate team player.
Off the ice he’s the ultimate humanitarian, earning him last season’s award in honour of late Flames owner Ralph T. Scurfield, presented to the Flame combining determination, perseverance and leadership with community service.
A previous winner of the NHL’s Foundation Players Award based on similar values, Hamonic is showing no sign of abating his desire to use his time as a player to make a difference.
To leave a legacy.
He humbly suggests his inspiration is drawn from the strength and compassion of others, like those who’ve wrapped their arms around Humboldt.
“It just shows you how good people can be and it makes you want to do more,” said Hamonic, who lives in Calgary year-round and made the recent trip one hour east of Saskatoon with teammates Mark Jankowski and Brett Kulak.
“When you see people chipping in and doing their part it’s contagious. You want to be here and it’s great to see the (19) current and former players here. I’m honoured, truthfully.
“To see the impact you can have with young kids – the way they smile and light up, it’s something that makes you feel young again.”
The lessons Hamonic said he’s learned from tragedies like his father’s death, the Humboldt bus crash and the sad situations he deals with alongside youngsters after every game, is that when times are good they need to be cherished.
“What I’ve learned is when you’re happy, be happy,” said the longtime Islanders blueliner.
“When you have an opportunity to smile and enjoy yourself and laugh you need those opportunities because they don’t come along all the time. With grief there’s a lot of time when it doesn’t. Events like this make you happy to see the good in people.”
Although never one to post big numbers from the back end, Hamonic came under fire last year when his second pairing alongside T.J. Brodie struggled to find chemistry.
Given how pricey it was to land Hamonic (a first-rounder in 2018 and two seconds), fans expected much more from the native of St. Malo, Man. It puts increasing pressure on him to perform with Hanifin now that Brodie will start the season on the first pairing with Giordano.
“I’ve never met Noah but we’ve texted and talked on the phone and he seems like a great kid,” said Hamonic who had one goal, 11 points and was minus-9 last year.
“I know him as a hockey player and he’s obviously a tremendous talent. I played against him for a couple years in New York and thought he was a hell of a player. He skates so smooth and has a head for the game. He’s big and he’s only 21 years old. I’m excited.”
Given the Flames’ moves to add depth up front and up the compete level, expectations are so high The Hockey News predicted the Flames would win the Pacific Division and make it to the West final.
“We have a group that didn’t make it (to the playoffs) last year – the message is understandably that we have to be better, to a man and as a team. The challenge is there – it’s on us to be better. I think we have the group to do it.”
Given his life path and his character, there’s no fear of failure.
“I didn’t really have any fears before becoming a dad,” he said.
“Faith is a huge part of my life and I’m a firm believer everyone has a plan. But just to know how hard it was for me to grow up. I had the best mom in the world, but still, being a teenager without a dad was hard.
“I never want to see my daughter have to go through that.”