NEW YORK – Almost three years later, Travis Hamonic still isn’t comfortable revealing exactly what prompted him to ask for a trade.
It was the fall of 2015 when a personal family matter prompted him to sit down for a heart-to-heart with New York Islanders GM Garth Snow that would eventually thrust the private life of the quiet product of St. Malo, Man., into hockey’s spotlight.
"To set the record straight I didn’t go in there demanding anything – it was never me saying, ‘I’ve got to go,’" said Hamonic in the midst of the Calgary Flames’ New York swing that will see his return to Brooklyn, Sunday, for the first time in red.
"It was brought up that it was a possibility. That’s how much it meant to me to be an Islander. I cared about my teammates and the organization. It was, ‘here’s what’s happening and here’s my life.’"
Hamonic, who was 10 when he lost his father to a heart attack, felt he needed to be closer to his home just outside Winnipeg.
Once it became public, he immediately addressed his teammates with an emotional meeting fellow Islanders defenceman Thomas Hickey said had everyone’s full understanding.
What followed was a litany of trade rumours and speculation surrounding the reason for his request.
Yet, Hamonic and Hickey agree it wasn’t a distraction at all.
"It really wasn’t," said Hickey, still one of Hamonic’s closest friends on the Islanders.
"He went about it the right way – he addressed the team and I think guys are very understanding in hockey. He just explained it to us and everyone understood and everyone was okay with it."
That has always been Hamonic’s calling card – doing things the right way.
He continued to be one of the league’s most dependable shut-down defencemen while faithfully running his post-game D-Partner program hosting youngsters who’ve lost parents as he did.
The Islanders went on to make the playoffs before losing a second round series to Tampa Bay Hamonic still thinks they should have won.
"We had a good year and my situation wasn’t a cloud hanging over me or the team," said Hamonic.
"As the year went on I realized I really didn’t want to leave and at the end of the year I decided to stay and I told Garth that. That was it."
Well, it wasn’t.
One year later, while at the 2017 NHL’s Humanitarian Awards in Vegas to accept his Foundation Player Award, his name suddenly started being attached to trade rumours again.
"I was certainly caught off guard by hearing my name after they asked about my award," said Hamonic, who found out while watching the NHL draft four days later he had in fact been traded to Calgary for a first rounder and two seconds.
"You turn on the TV and see your name and there’s a ton of emotions. My first emotion was excitement over where I was going and the chance we have for this team.
"The second was towards a process. You’re leaving a place you called home for seven years. Not a lot of people spend seven years in one spot in this game. I’m blessed I was able to have that stability with my family."
It didn’t take long for Hamonic and his wife, Stephanie, to assimilate to Calgary where the wide-open spaces and western hospitality reminded him of home.
It is home.
Not only did he immediately start plans to resume his D-Partner program, but he’s further endeared himself to locals by initiating a program saluting his Metis heritage called the Northern Project, flying indigenous families from remote Canada to see a game and spend time with him. All on his own dime.
He feels it’s his duty as a human to give back and use his platform to make a difference.
He’s doing that.
His father would be proud.
Stephanie is now seven months pregnant with their first child, and back in St. Malo, he says things have improved.
"It’s better – I’ll leave that there," said Hamonic.
"I’m still not going to necessarily start discussing that. To fly from Winnipeg to New York is a trek, and to be an hour and 30 minutes flight to Calgary is much closer."
Even though he assumed the possibility of relocating closer to home had been nixed long ago, he couldn’t have fathomed it working out better than it has.
"For myself, my family and my career I tell you honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I couldn’t be in a better spot," said Hamonic, 27, who has played all season alongside T.J. Brodie on the Flames second pairing.
"Anyone who knows me can see how much I enjoy being a Flame and my teammates here especially. The Islanders got what they wanted and I’m in an awesome spot."
Hickey, who was born and raised in Calgary, agrees.
"Calgary is a great fit for him," said Hickey, who planned to spend time with Hamonic on their day off Saturday.
"I’d be faking it to say I’m as western as he is. He wears it every day. He’s a good teammate and good guy – we miss having him around."
While Hamonic says he has no idea what to expect Sunday night when he steps onto the ice at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Hickey sure does.
"He was a staple of this organization for seven years and given the impact he had on our fans and community there’s no question he’s going to get a warm ovation," said Hickey.
"I think I’ve watched enough Flames games so far that I’ve gotten used to seeing him in a Flames jersey, but it’s still going to be different.
"He’s unique in the sense he’s quite reserved and stays to himself, but he’s willing to get out of his comfort zone with the community stuff he does. To see him step out of the box like that you appreciate what he’s doing even more. He’s not a guy who likes the limelight."
Sunday night he’ll be in it.
"It will be weird," said Hamonic, who is just five games short of playing 500 in the NHL.
"A new experience to be on the other side of things. I won’t know what it’s like until after the game.
"I’ve been around enough to know you have to park those emotions and treat it like any other game. I’m not the first and the last player in the game to get traded, but with cell phones today it’s pretty easy to stay in touch. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends and enjoying some time there before the game. There are lot of good people over there."
Few better than the visitor in red folks here won’t soon forget.