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This article was published 21/11/2018 (386 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CALGARY — Travis Hamonic is a heck of a hockey player. But the pride of St. Malo, Manitoba – currently patrolling the blue-line for the Calgary Flames – believes his true calling in life is what he can do off the ice.
And so this week, Hamonic and his wife, Stephanie, launched a new charitable initiative called "Charlie's Children," which will support low-income families and single mothers expecting a baby. It's named after their daughter, Charlie, who was born last May.
"We never realized some of the economic challenges that come with raising a kid and having a baby and, truthfully, how expensive it can be," Hamonic, 28, said Wednesday in a lengthy chat with the Free Press prior to his team's game against the Winnipeg Jets.
"It’s unfortunate to think that there are a lot of people that have fallen on really hard times and aren’t as fortunate and lucky as maybe I am. I think, between my wife and I, we realize that, we see that, and we’re just trying to do our part to help out as many people as I can. I’ll be long and gone in this game one day and nobody will never really remember much of what I do on the ice, and that’s OK. But you want to think that at the end of your time, that you tried to do some good and tried to help and reach as many people as you can," said Hamonic.
The nine-year pro is an All-Star when it comes to community causes. This is already the third different initiative he's introduced since joining the Flames at the start of the 2017-18 season following a trade from the New York Islanders.
"You want to think that at the end of your time, that you tried to do some good and tried to help and reach as many people as you can." – Travis Hamonic
His D-Day partner program, which he started in New York, brings children who have lost a parent to a Flames game, where Hamonic ensures they are given the rock-star treatment. Hamonic speaks openly with them about his own traumatic experience, as his father died in front of him of a massive heart attack when he was just 10. His mother was left to raise Hamonic and his three older siblings by herself.
The second initiative, called The Northern Project, is an attempt to connect to his Metis roots and give back to that community. Last season Hamonic brought five families from various Northern Canadian regions to Calgary, where they spent time with the team and watched a game.
Now comes the third project, and Hamonic said it likely won't be the last.
"I’d like to have more, to be honest, and I say that dead-serious. I think the way I grew up and how I grew up, being a farm boy and being comfortable but never having too much, I think it was a blessing in disguise," said Hamonic.
"My wife kind of grew up in the same humble beginnings. I joke about it that I’ll be old and done in this game one day, but I will be. That’s the truth, right? I want my kids to look up to me and think that I tried to make a difference and tried to help. I want my daughter to be proud of me and my wife, and I think there is more — as a family — that Steph and I can do, truthfully."
Hamonic's mother still lives in Manitoba, and he requested a trade out of New York so he could be closer to her. There were rumblings of Winnipeg interest, but ultimately the Flames acquired his services.
"My wife and I are so happy to be here. The city's great, it's right up our alley. Our daughter was born here. It's really been a dream come true. You grow up playing (junior hockey) in Moose Jaw and watching the Flames all the time. To throw the jersey on for the first time last year was a pretty neat feeling," said Hamonic.
"You're proud of where you're from, and I'm certainly proud to be Manitoban, from St. Malo, some deep roots there, but life in Calgary has been good." – Travis Hamonic
"You're proud of where you're from, and I'm certainly proud to be Manitoban, from St. Malo, some deep roots there, but life in Calgary has been good."
Hamonic had a tough start to this season, suffering a broken jaw in two places and multiple lost teeth in the first game of the regular-season. Rookie teammate Dillon Dube had been crushed by Vancouver's Eric Gudbranson just eight seconds into his first shift, and Hamonic responded by dropping the gloves only to take a bad punch to the face.
The injury perfectly sums up Hamonic's career — he was standing up for the little guy.
"Growing up, the way I grew up, I think the humble beginnings. I think our faith has kind of been a driving force between trying to help out in the community," said Hamonic. "Because with what I believe in and my faith, those are the things that matter the most in this world to me and my family. This is just another opportunity for us to try to reach and help."
The idea for Charlie's Children was born as Hamonic and his wife were out purchasing baby supplies.
"We had talked about it early on in the pregnancy. And once we were fortunate enough to realize that everything was going well, then you slowly start buying things. It’s stressful to begin with, but the first couple things that we were buying, I certainly had my eyes opened to some of the price-tags on things. I’m not naïve — I know that I’m in a position where I don’t need to have the same thoughts as some other people, and I say that humbly," said Hamonic.
"One of the first times that we went out shopping, when we were leaving, in the car, I remember we kind of both said it at the same time. It was weird, between Steph and I. We just said, ‘We’ve gotta help.’ This was something that we had never had our eyes opened to because it was a first-time situation for us. But when we really thought about it and sat down, it was kind of a no-brainer for us."
"Growing up, the way I grew up, I think the humble beginnings. I think our faith has kind of been a driving force between trying to help out in the community." – Travis Hamonic
The Calgary Flames Foundation is kicking in funding as well, and Hamonic said the goal is to "raise hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Speaking of goals, Hamonic said his first one scored earlier this season was truly memorable. It came in a matinee game against Washington, with his then six-month-old daughter in the crowd for the first time.
"I was leaving the house and I always just give my wife a kiss and obviously now my daughter, too. And I just turned to her and just bluntly said … And I don’t know why I did, because I don’t score many goals, but I just bluntly said, ‘Dad is going to score you a goal this afternoon,'" said Hamonic.
And sure enough, a guy who had 27 career tallies at that point in 520 regular-season games did exactly as he said he would.
"It was kind of a fluky goal where I scored from the crease off my foot, and I usually don’t get that animated ever when I score a goal, and I was so excited just because I was like, ‘Man, the promise came true,'" said Hamonic.
"When I got home, my wife quickly joked about not promising too many of those afterward. I can’t be breaking promises now that I’m a dad. But it was a cool, special moment. I’m grateful to God, I think that was a blessing for sure."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at 6:35 PM CST: Changes category