Travis Hamonic always will have a warm spot among Islanders fans for having given everything he had on the ice, and for not stopping there. Having lost his own father at a young age, he stood out for spending time after every Islanders home game with a child who had lost a parent.
It was all part of his own growing-up process and it all came back to him Sunday as the Flames defenseman played against the Islanders for the first time. “It’s been seven-plus years with a lot of teammates, friends, trainers. It’s not just them, it’s their families as well,” he told reporters after the morning skate at Barclays Center. “You build up these relationships and then you kind of leave and that’s that.”
He credited Garth Snow and then-coach Jack Capuano for giving him his NHL opportunity, adding that he never will forget his first game and first goal. “Probably the coolest thing that I did and the thing that I’m most proud of in my Islanders jersey was that playoff series win,” he said, referring to the 2016 victory over the Panthers that ended the franchise’s 23-year playoff drought.
That was the end of an awkward season that began with Hamonic requesting a trade for personal reasons and ended with him rescinding the request. His play fell off last season, though, and he was dealt in a transaction that brought the Islanders a first-round pick.
Hamonic was honored with a first-period video tribute that began with a clip of him accepting the NHL Humanitarian Award, featured several of his goals and finished with a still picture of him superimposed with a big THANK YOU. He responded to the standing ovation with a wave after having tossed pucks to fans in warmups.
In the home locker room before the game, there was only praise for him. “He’s a good friend and a good person,” Johnny Boychuk said. Doug Weight said, “He played every shift like it was going to be his last.”
Boychuk happy to be back
Boychuk’s return on Friday was lost in the tumult of the Islanders’ resounding comeback victory, but they might not have won had he still been out with a lower-body injury. “I’d been off for two months. It felt good to be out there,” he said. “It was probably the most frustrating thing I’ve ever gone through. Just sitting, waiting, trying to get better.”