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WHL ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT – TRAVIS HAMONIC

It’s a long way from St. Malo, MB, to New York City. Just ask Travis Hamonic.

After all, that’s exactly the road the 20-year-old defenseman took to get from home on the farm in rural Manitoba to playing in the NHL with the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, NY.

In between the farm and The Show, Hamonic spent four years playing in the Western Hockey League with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings, where he developed into the rugged and talented rearguard that the Islanders selected in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Drafted by the Warriors in the ninth round of the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft, Hamonic developed into one of the WHL’s top two-way defensemen, known equally for his physical and defensive play as he was for his puck-moving and offensive talents. His strong performance earned him a spot on Canada’s National Junior team in 2010.

After wrapping up his WHL career with a Memorial Cup appearance with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2010, Hamonic made the jump to the professional ranks, joining the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Hamonic’s stay in the AHL was short-lived, however. The 6’2”, 208-lb defenseman earned a call-up to the NHL on November 24th for the Islanders’ game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, and has not looked back since.

Now entrenched on the Isles’ blue line, Hamonic has made a great adjustment to the NHL, and has become a key cog on a young Islanders team.

Though now living in one of the biggest cities in the world and playing hockey at the highest level, Hamonic won’t soon forget his roots of riding buses through the prairies in the WHL.

CATCHING UP WITH…TRAVIS HAMONIC

On being in the NHL…
“It’s been a terrific experience…it’s really a dream come true. Ever since I was a kid playing on the outdoor rinks in Manitoba, I have dreamed about the day I got to play in the NHL. Now that I am up here, I’m just trying to take the ball and run with it. The Islanders have given me a great opportunity, and have done a great job in bringing me a long. Now, I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity.”

On his first NHL game…
“That was a pretty surreal experience. You always think about what it’ll be like, but when it actually happens, it’s just so cool. To play on such a storied team as the Islanders makes it even more special. I had my family in the stands, and they were probably even more excited than I was. I think it’s pretty special for my parents to see because they put so much time and effort into my dream, and to see it come true was amazing for them.”

On facing Rick Nash in his first game…
“It was a couple of shifts in, and I lined up beside him for the faceoff. The puck dropped and we kind of bumped into each other. But, the play was blown dead and, at the next faceoff, he said ‘Sorry, buddy’ for bumping into me. I just thought ‘wow’, and how neat it was to be facing a guy like this. It hits you, when you find yourself in that situation, that you’re actually playing in the NHL and you’re playing against the best guys in the world. It’s a lot different to play against a guy like Rick Nash than it is playing against guys in Junior or the AHL, I tell you.”

On life in New York…
“New York is a great city, and Long Island is a great place to live. Coming from St. Malo, where there are only about six or seven hundred people, it’s a huge change. There’s a lot more people, and a lot more going on in this city than anywhere I’d ever been before. All I can say is thank God I have a GPS, because I’d have way more trouble getting around this city without one.”

On his time developing in the WHL…
“I think it was the biggest thing for me in getting (to the NHL). When a kid comes into Junior and the WHL, they are in their biggest development years, not only in terms of playing hockey, but also becoming a man. When I first came to Moose Jaw at 16 years old, I was very lucky to have great billets, a great group of teammates and great coaches to help me along. Moving away from home as a young kid, you really want to feel comfortable. The Moose Jaw Warriors really helped me get comfortable and make the transition to living away from home and being in a new place, and to playing in a new League at a new level. When I left Moose Jaw, I was really sad, but I was thankful that the Warriors gave me a chance to go to a team like Brandon, who were going to the Memorial Cup.”

On how the WHL prepared him for the NHL…
“I think, first and foremost, the lifestyle you lead in the WHL sets you up for what to expect at the next level. You go to the rink, you practice, you take care of your schooling, and you play a 72-game schedule. It’s the routines that you develop that help you down the road. The style of play in the WHL suits guys who move up, as well. It’s a competitive League with very good players and coaches, so you learn so much about the game and what it takes to move up. Educations was a big thing for me and my family, and the WHL does an outstanding job with helping kids get through high school and beyond, and they have a tremendous post-secondary education package for those who go that route. If the time ever comes that I have a couple kids who play hockey, I’d definitely steer them towards the WHL.”

WHL ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT ARCHIVE

Catching Up With…Matt Calvert

Catching Up With…Brandon McMillan

Catching Up With…Dana Tyrell

Catching Up With…Brandon Kozun

Catching Up With…Keith Aulie

Catching Up With…Brad McCrimmon

Catching Up With…Dustin Tokarski

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