Canwest News Service
REGINA – Travis Hamonic's tribute to his late father is subtle, yet sincere.
"On the knob of my stick, I write DAD," says Hamonic, a Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman who is attending Canada's world junior selection camp.
"That's just another reminder to know that he's there with me."
Hamonic, 19, was 10 years old when his father, Gerald, died of a heart attack on Sept. 15, 2000. He was 44 years old.
"I woke up one night to the worst nightmare I could ever have thought about, " recalls the youngest of Gerald and Lisa Hamonic's four children.
"Between my mom, my family, God and hockey, that was pretty much the only thing that helped me make it through. When I was growing up, my dad was always my biggest supporter in hockey, whether it was on the ice, off the ice or just joking around in the house. Everything was kind of hockey. He would have done anything that it took.
"After he passed away, I took that to heart. I was on the ice every day for 2 1/2 hours at the local rink. That was my own form of therapy. I credit my mom. She had to do a lot of stuff after my dad died. To have a 10-year-old thrown in your arms and to have to raise a teenager by yourself, she did a great job."
Hamonic's first job was on the family farm near St. Malo, Man., about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg. While doing chores on the farm, Hamonic became even closer to his father and his older brother (Jesse, now 23).
"I did everything from sweeping the sheds and grain bins to driving the tractor," says Hamonic, who has two older sisters – Carly, 28, and Melissa, 26. "Being the youngest brother and the youngest guy working, sometimes I didn't have the funnest jobs. You can say it was rookie duty in a sense, but that's all part of it. Any way that I can help out the family, that was the main thing for me.
"Sometimes I'd be cleaning up stuff that I didn't want to clean up. It was a `plug your nose and away you go' type of thing."
The work on the farm was intensified when Gerald Hamonic died. The harvest had to be completed – and it was, with the Hamonic brothers and friends of the family handling those responsibilities.
The farm was sold five years later, when the family moved to Winnipeg.
Hamonic feels that the opportunities he received in Winnipeg's hockey system enhanced his development.
"I always try to take a positive outlook on life instead of a negative, because life's too short," he says. "Unfortunately, that's a lesson that I learned at 10 years old, that no kid should have to learn."
Hamonic was forced to grow up in a hurry, which explains his maturity level.
"At times, I think he's 30 years old," Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak marvels.
Hunchak is quick to laud Hamonic for his contributions on and off the ice.
He has been named the Warriors' scholastic player-of-the-year and humanitarian-of-the-year. He never loses sight of his parents' influence.
"From everyday life, I've got the first picture of me and my dad and the last picture of me and my dad up on my wall," he says. "That's something that I cherish and that's something that I take with me everywhere.
"It's a tough go every day. It's one of those things that never gets easier, but the biggest thing my dad used to always say was, `You get used to any situation that you're in.' That's something that's carried me through my life. It doesn't get easier, but you get used to it.
"From everyday life to hockey games, I always say a prayer to God before a game. I'm always asking Him to make sure that my dad can watch. From putting little things about my dad on my stick to having him in the back of my mind and in my heart, he's there with me every step of the way and I know that he would be proud of me."
That is especially true this week, as Hamonic attempts to crack Canada's roster for the world junior tournament.
"You look at things like having a chance for the world juniors and the opportunity to play in the NHL and have a long career in the NHL, and it puts a smile on my face just thinking about it," says Hamonic, whom the New York Islanders selected in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2008 NHL entry draft.
"I like to think that I've got a lot of negative things out of my way right now and it's only better days ahead for me."
Travis Hamonic's dad never far from his heart
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