Travis Hamonic Trains and Mentors in the AHL While Waiting for Lockout to End

Kevin Schultz

SYOSSET, NY — Two years ago, Islanders defender Travis Hamonic spent a few shorts months in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He played 19 games in Bridgeport at the start of the 2010-11 season before being called up to the Islanders permanently in November 2010. Since being called up he’s amassed 135 NHL games and become one of the Islanders best defenders, if not the best.

With fewer than 160 games played at the NHL level, Hamonic is eligible to spend the lockout in the AHL without having to pass through waivers. He’s one of many young NHL players who have been assigned to their AHL affilites, a list that also includes the likes of Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Philly’s Sean Couturier and Carolina’s Jeff Skinner. Hamonic was paired with Matt Donovan on the top defensive pair today, the first full day of camp, and is looking to help lead the team until the NHL is ready to go.

“[The AHL is] the second best league to the NHL and there’s a lot of good young players, a lot of guys working hard just to get that one opportunity to get to the NHL level,” Hamonic said at Iceworks in Syosset earlier today. “I was grateful to get that opportunity early on in my AHL debut, and hopefully I can come back and give these guys some leadership and be a mentor for the first and second year guys for the time being. Hopefully things will get resolved at the NHL level pretty soon.”

Prior to joining the Sound Tigers, he had been skating in informal practices with NHL players in Winnipeg. “I was getting tired of waking up everyday and having to practice,” he said. “I want to get into game mode and start hitting someone.”

While the league and NHLPA continue to negotiate, Hamonic also discussed how he is kept abreast of the situation by union leadership. “We know what’s going on on a daily basis and I think that’s important especially this time around. Maybe it’s just easier with technology, but [NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr] does such a great job making sure we’re all informed. We stand 100% behind what we’ve proposed and what we believe in and what we’re standing up for. I think we want a fair deal, we’re not going for a home run, and hopefully the league can recognize that and we can come to some sort of agreement pretty quick.”

“I’m still optimistic that the season is going to start at some time at the NHL level, maybe I’ll have a bit of an advantage over some of those guys that are still at home skating,” Hamonic said regarding his AHL stint. While many players are in Europe or the AHL, others are left without a team.

For some young players like Hamonic, keeping in game shape should help to prepare them for when, or if, the NHL returns.

“Whenever the league’s ready, I’m going to be ready to go.”