It’s fitting that the last thing Travis Hamonic did as an Islander was earn recognition for his charity work.
Hamonic is now a member of the Flames, having been traded Saturday for a first-round pick and two second-round picks. His 444 games an Islander did not include a ton of on-ice success, but Hamonic always drew the right kind of attention for his work off the ice, particularly with Long Island and New York City kids who had lost parents.
“If that was the last moment for me as an Islander, it’s a special one,” Hamonic told Newsday on Monday afternoon as he waited for a flight from Winnipeg to Calgary for his formal introduction as the newest Flame. “There will be nothing but good memories to take away from my seven years there.”
His message to Islanders fans is the same message he gave to his now former teammates, to general manager Garth Snow, former coach Jack Capuano and numerous Isles staffers: Thanks.
“The fans welcomed me and my family right from the start, a farm kid out on Long Island,” he said of his callup from Bridgeport early in the 2010-11 season. “We didn’t have a ton of fans at the Coliseum then, but the ones that were there were so passionate and it was easy to see how much they cared.
“As we started to get better and more fans came out, it was still the same sort of passion. And as you got to know people in the area, they were always so gracious and really made us a part of the community.”
From that early call-up, which came right around the time Capuano took over, Hamonic earned more responsibility and more praise for the way he played. Those feelings, he said Monday, far overshadow any unhappiness at being dealt away.
“I’ve already said it a bunch since Saturday: Garth is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever come across and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “Him and Cappy were my two biggest believers from the start. They gave me an opportunity.”
Hamonic made sure to mention the staffers who helped him build Hamonic’s D-Partner Foundation, which brought kids who had lost one or both parents to Islanders games first at the Coliseum and then at Barclays Center.
The program was one of Hamonic’s highest priorities outside the game. Having lost his father at age 10, he’s spoken openly and honestly about struggling to get past that trauma. Every night, win or lose, he would be in the Isles locker room, escorting kids around and talking to them about life without a mother or father.
“It was a lot of work and I have people like [Isles community relations director] Ann Rina and [Isles media relations director] Kimber Auerbach to thank for helping make it work,” Hamonic said.
For all the nostalgia, Hamonic is excited to be back in western Canada. He said he never had another conversation with Snow last week about the trade request he made in September of 2015 to be closer to his Winnipeg home for personal reasons. He rescinded that request after the 2015-16 season and maintained he wanted to be an Islander for life.
But finding out Saturday, after a few days of rumors, that he was headed to Calgary left him feeling upbeat.
“It was a stressful few days, but once we found out, there was a lot of excitement,” he said. “I’ll miss New York. But this brought a huge smile to my face.”