Travis Hamonic lost his father unexpectedly at the age of 10 years old. Since his sophomore season with the New York Islanders, he has made sure to help children and families going through their own grieving process.
The D-Partner Program
The Hamonics host a child and their family at every Calgary Flames home game. The child is awarded a special D-Partner shirt. They and their three guests get to sit in the lower bowl of the Scotiabank Saddledome thanks to the Hamonics. After the game, the young child and their guests have the chance to sit down with him and discuss what they’re going through.
“It’s rewarding to be able to hang out with these kids and their family members or guardians,” Hamonic said. “When you meet the kids, they’re very excited. One of the boys who was here was 10 years old and lost his dad when he was eight. He was at one of our last games with his mom. That one struck a chord because his story resembled mine a lot.”
The program has helped hundreds if not thousands of hockey fans. They are able to express themselves and share their story with someone who they look up to, who is in the same boat. Hamonic himself admits to not talking about the loss of his father when it happened. Hearing their stories has to help him in some way as well.
Hamonic’s Dedication to his Father
Hamonic’s father was a farmer in St. Malo, Manitoba. He was dedicated to keeping their wheat farm in line. He might’ve worked long days out in the field but he always came home to play with his kids. Hamonic refers to his father as his superhero. Losing your best friend is no easy feat. A year after his death, his mother sold the farm and they moved to Winnipeg.
Hamonic has dedicated each and every game to his father, Gerald, who passed away from a heart attack in the middle of the night. Before every game, he says a prayer at the blue line, looks up to the left corner of the rink and asks God to give his father the best seat in the house. In his E:60 story, his mother talks about him being called up from the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the New York Islanders. He kept saying, “Dad would be so proud.” Hamonic goes on to talk about how he’d trade his NHL career to have his dad watch one shift and be there to talk to him about it after.
It’s Bigger Than Hockey
Anyone who has ever lost a parent knows that the pain that it carries is unbearable. There might be days where things are “okay” but in the blink of an eye that all changes, and you’re crying in the middle of a supermarket. There are days where you go to call them and are hit by a truck remembering they won’t be there to pick it up. What Hamonic and his wife, Stephanie, are doing is incredible.
They are offering children a safe haven; a few hours watching their favorite hockey team hopefully win to be topped off by a chat with Hamonic. There is a lot of dedication that goes into running this program, but the reward is worth it. Between 2012 and 2017, he spent $50,000 out of his own pocket to make this project work.
Since being traded to Calgary, MEG Energy has partnered with the Hamonics to keep the program going. It’s great to see the community coming together to support a cause. The tradition of having a D-Partner kid at every home game has continued. However, with the 2019-20 season on pause, the program will hopefully resume with the season. That’s 41 families who are getting the chance to be part of something bigger than hockey.
“MEG Energy is proud to support initiatives that give back to the community like the D-Partner Program,” stated Tara McCool, Vice President, People & Corporate Identity. “We applaud Travis for encouraging youth who have lost a parent to open up to discuss their loss and experiences. His efforts earned him the NHL Foundation Player Award this past summer, and MEG is thrilled to assist Travis in bringing the D-Partner Program to Calgary.”
Tara McCool, Vice President of People & Corperate identity
Aside from his teams and sponsors, the league also recognizes how special his work is. In 2017, he was awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award. The award goes to the player “who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance, and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”
He doesn’t do it for the trophies or recognition. Hamonic does this to help children who are in the place he once was.
“For the children who I get to meet, that they are so forthcoming and trust me to share their stories, it’s very special for me. To be able to be recognized for it was very humbling, but at the same time, there are so many guys in this league that do so much great work, that any one of them could have won the award. But it was a pretty memorable night and I’m looking forward to starting the program in Calgary.”
Travis Hamonic after recieving his award in 2017
Grieving is not an easy process and for Hamonic to listen to these stories day after day goes to show just how strong he is. He is the shoulder for many fans to cry on in their most vulnerable time. Good on him for opening his arms to those in need and being the person he needed when he was younger.