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Travis Hamonic tells his story on ESPN's 'E:60'

E:60 on Travis Hamonic: 'In the Name of the Father'

ESPN's latest E:60 segment focuses on Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic's relationship with his father, Gerald, and the aftermath of his death from a heart attack in 2000. Travis was 10; his father was 44.

John Minton III does not get to many Islanders games anymore, having long since moved from Commack, where he grew up, to Bristol, Connecticut, home of a certain famous sports television network where he works.

But there he was Saturday night inside raucous Nassau Coliseum for the 43rd and final Islanders opener there, around so many old friends who are ticket-holders that it seemed like "a little bit of a high school reunion."

Minton was not there to socialize, though. He is the feature producer behind a rare nationally televised piece that centers on an Islander, in this case defenseman Travis Hamonic, and was at the old barn shooting some final scenes.

Actually, "rare" is an understatement. The segment on Hamonic that is to premiere Wednesday night on "E:60" is unprecedented for the 7-year-old ESPN news magazine program.

So naturally it took a powerful story to convince all concerned that the rest of America would care to learn more about Hamonic. The idea dates to spring 2013 and evolved as he grew more comfortable with sharing his story.

"He agreed after some initial discussions that he was ready to tell it," Minton said. "This was going to be a new experience for him at that time, because it was going to be an all-in project in a lot of ways."

The core of Hamonic's story -- and of the "E:60" piece -- is his relationship with his father, Gerald, and the aftermath of his death from a heart attack in 2000. Travis was 10; his father was 44.

Interviews with Travis, his mother and two of his three siblings make it clear how deeply felt the loss was and remains for the youngest in the family by several years.

But the sudden death of a relatively young parent is not unusual. What makes his story compelling is how he channels his grief as a professional at hockey's highest level.

Hamonic, 24, is in his third season hosting a child who has lost a parent or loved one -- as well as his or her family -- at every Islanders home game.

The idea is to brighten not only the child's day but Hamonic's, too.

"What I do think is unusual with this is it's a mutually beneficial experience for both Travis and the kids," Minton said.

The producer views it as a universal tale that is only coincidentally tied to hockey and to where Hamonic grew up on a farm in a small town called St. Malo, south of Winnipeg.

Hamonic, who scored a goal in the Islanders' opener Friday, always has been known as mature beyond his age. "I turned 32 this year," Minton said, "and I feel like I'm Travis' junior a lot of times."

The result is evident on-screen in the "E:60" story, for which Jeremy Schaap is the reporter and Dave Lynch the editor. Beyond the merits of the story itself, it was a bonus for Minton that he got to chronicle one about an Islander.

He referred to the Rangers only as "the other option" in declaring his Islanders-fan bona fides, even if he is not old enough to recall the Stanley Cup years.

"I survived the fisherman logo," he said, adding that he arrived in the middle of the Cup run in 1982 and thus was "born into the dynasty."

Still, was there any hesitation in giving over a chunk of national TV time to a team that does not resonate much beyond the western shore of the East River?

"I don't think there was much discussion involved in that; I think we looked at the story in and of itself," he said. "We felt it was a story we could really bring to life."

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