When the words, "Travis Hamonic" and "Trade" first floated across social media on Wednesday, the first thought most of us had was that the conversation between Hamonic and Islanders GM Garth Snow went something like this:
But Travis Hamonic is different. He's always been different. From the moment he came up as an injury replacement five years ago, to right now as one of the Islanders' top four defenseman, Hamonic has always stood out because of his play and his often front-and-center emotions.
In contrast to what we thought was happening behind the scenes, here's the actual Hamonic talking about his request for a trade to a team closer to his home in Winnipeg:
As he speaks, Hamonic seems overwhelmed by the attention. He heaps high praise on the GM that drafted him, the players that play alongside him, the coach that's taught him, the owner that pays him and the building he, for now, calls home.
Trade requests are nothing new to the Islanders. If you've followed them long enough, you've seen players of all stripes say, "er, thanks but no thanks" and push to play someplace else. Episodes like those are among the reasons we as fans normally expect the worst of this team.
Usually, when a player wants off the Islanders, he doesn't sound like this. Most of the time, they don't say anything until they get to their new team. Then they burp out the usual boilerplate about thanking the organization and looking forward to a fresh start.
But Travis Hamonic is different. As if knowing what everyone was already thinking, Hamonic threw a bucket of cold water on the reasons we assumed were behind the request. Hamonic is many things, but he's never come off as guy prone to blowing sunshine up people's asses. If this is how he toes the company line, Hamonic should add "actor" to his long list of admirable character traits.
No trade is imminent, and there's no guarantee that Snow can even acquire the "equal-level replacement" he's seeking. Finding another blueliner that logs around 20 minutes a night, moves the puck in the right direction corsi-wise, kills penalties, can lead the occasional offensive rush and - yes - hits and isn't shy physically, could be possible but it's not going to be easy.
One of the ironic things about Hamonic's out-of-the-blue request is that he's been playing great hockey this season. Certainly not like a guy whose mind is a thousand miles away.
But Travis Hamonic is different.
What about equal value financially? The seven year, $27 million deal Hamonic signed with the Islanders in 2013 was a show of confidence and loyalty from both parties. Hamonic was drafted by the Islanders and wanted to be an Islander for a long time. Guys who provide what he does often cost much, much more.
But Travis Hamonic is different. However things have changed for him on a personal level, he committed to the Islanders in a way outside observers still don't expect.
Islanders don't get talked about on ESPN. They just don't. The last time I can specifically remember the Islanders getting mentioned on The Worldwide Leader was Steve Levy talking about the Zigmund Palffy-Bryan Smolinski-Derek King line being a productive one for coach Mike Milbury. You do the math to figure out what season that was.
But Travis Hamonic is different. His tragic story of losing his father to a heart attack as a young boy, then dedicating his career to his dad's memory and his time to connecting with kids who have also lost parents, showed that he was much, much more than just a very good hockey player.
Even now, with most of the facts of the situation out in the open, plenty of fans are ready to say good riddance to another one who doesn't want to be part of the solution.
But this is different. This is Travis Hamonic.
Maybe Snow can find someone who fits all of those bills. But it will be a new player, who will need time to gel with his new teammates and settle into life as an Islander as opposed to a... whatever.
Whoever he is, he won't be Travis Hamonic. He'll be different.