Friday, 10 July 2020

Priorities Matter

As you may have heard, the NHL will officially be returning in August to the cities of Edmonton and Toronto to conclude the 2019-20 season in whatever way possible. While I still think the bubble idea in these cities has far too many variables for the NHL to control, it seems they're pretty confident that the Stanley Cup can be awarded to whatever team makes it that far with enough players who can avoid contracting the virus. One player who won't be on the ice, however, is the man pictured to the left as Calgary Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic has made the decision to not resume playing this season in order to protect his family's health. Before you start ripping on the guy like some already have on social media, there's a very good reason for Hamonic's decision and it's one that I fully support.

The other people pictured in the image above are Travis's wife, Stephanie, and his infant daughter, Charlie. In saying that, Travis is a deeply-committed family man after having asked for a trade to be closer to family in 2015 when he was with the Islanders. While we all know that being a hockey player's wife in the NHL means the suitcases never truly are put into storage, this request had everything to do with Hamonic wanting to be closer to family and zero to do with wanting off Long Island.

"I probably wouldn't want to get into more detail," he told reporters at the time, "but I think the Islanders have been great with me throughout this whole process. I know people are going to say and write what they want and all that stuff, but it has nothing to do with the organization or how I've been treated here six years as playing and another two or three since I've been drafted. I've been honestly treated like gold from the start."

In late June of 2017 despite having rescinded his ask for a trade, Hamonic was traded to the Calgary Flames, and he, his wife, and young daughter moved back to western Canada. The fit seemed perfect for both sides - Hamonic was closer to family and the Flames got themselves a reliable defenceman who could play big minutes in all situations. Things seemed to be going well, and the couple even welcomed their son to the family as Travis was trying to help the Flames win the Stanley Cup.

Everything almost came to a screeching halt in January 2019, though, when Charlie, the Hamonic's daughter and eight months old at the time, became seriously ill with a serious respiratory issue. Travis left the team and joined Stephanie at their daughter's bedside as doctors at the Alberta Children's Hospital worked to bring Charlie back to good health, and I'm happy to report that Charlie has recovered.

However, that moment was anything but easy for Travis and Stephanie.

"Everything goes out the window," Hamonic said. "My wife and I haven't left her side, we've been sitting in the room with her 24/7 and we probably won't leave her side, even when she's 50. We play a game for a living and it's my job and I take my job seriously. But my daughter is the most important focal point in my life."

Did you catch that last sentence - "my daughter is the most important focal point in my life"? Now you know why Travis Hamonic is opting out of coming back to play hockey in August. The risk of contracting a virus that wreaks havoc on people's respiratory systems is a risk that's just too high for Travis and Stephanie Hamonic with respect to their daughter's health. Playoffs would be meaningless if anything happened to his daughter, and Hamonic made that statement loud and clear with his decision today.

I fully and completely respect his decision not to return, and I will defend his decision from anyone who believes he's made the wrong decision. This is entirely the right choice by him as it shows that family, not hockey and not the Stanley Cup, is the one thing that drives Travis Hamonic. No one will ever deny that he wants to win, but he seems to be fairly grounded in knowing that there will be much bigger wins and so much more to celebrate in his future with his daughter, son, and wife remaining safe and healthy than what the Stanley Cup will bring this season.

To me, that already makes Travis Hamonic a champion, and to question his heart or his character after making this decision to protect his "home" team makes me wonder how some of these social media warriors can face themselves in their mirrors. Hamonic's family will always be there for him just as he'll always be there for them, and that's the team he's chosen to put ahead of all others. And, honestly, rightfully so.

If I needed a person to inspire me, Travis Hamonic would be that person. His devotion to his family and his unwavering character to make a decision that a lot of players wouldn't make tells me that he'll always be a champion because he already wears a ring that means more to him than any other: his wedding ring. He and his teammate in life, Stephanie, are raising two little teammates who will bring them joy, tears, happiness, and laughter for a lot longer than any Stanley Cup parade ever will. Travis Hamonic loves his family, and this decision proves that blood is thicker than any champagne that will flow following a Stanley Cup victory.

I'll never question his dedication to his team that he's built. Ever.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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