I have to hand it to Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning and I have to hand it to the Vancouver local media. As far as I know, no one ever reported the Travis Hamonic political anti-vaxxer theories as fact, only for what they were … speculation. Benning for his part all along insisted that Hamonic’s long delay to join the team involved a sensitive, personal family matter, and unless this is the tale of someone with anti-vaccination tendencies finally seeing the light, then “sensitive family matter” appropriately and accurately fits the description.
The degree to which Covid-19 and vaccines played a part remains a mystery. That said, for whatever reason, Mr. Hamonic is not yet double-vaxxed. Hamonic said he was “vaccinated” but it appears he has one shot to go.
“He’ll be double-vaxxed soon, and we’ll be following the protocols,” Head Coach Travis Green said.
Hamonic, addressing the media for the first time since rejoining the organization, was emotional while referring to his private trials and tribulations and the support he received from the Vancouver Canucks, teammates and management he described as family. He didn’t respond specifically to vaccine questions other than to say he would be following protocols.
“It hasn’t been easy, by any means, but I need to say how thankful I am to the organization for their help through the last couple months,” Hamonic said in a statement before taking questions. “It goes without saying that we are a family inside that dressing room and especially this organization, and I think on the outside people don’t always see how much we actually care for each other and how far that goes. I just wanted to come out and thank the organization because it’s made a world of difference for me and my family the last couple of months.”
Whatever the personal matter, Hamonic said that he was not aware of it, or it had not yet developed, at the time he signed his two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks back on July 28th. When the 31-year-old failed to report to training camp in September the rumours began flying. At one point the Canucks dabbled with other NHL clubs to test the trade market to no avail. As the wait continued, speculation arose as to whether Hamonic might opt out of the season or if the Vancouver Canucks might suspend the player without pay. In the end they settled on an unpaid personal leave of absence, with the belief he would ultimately show up.
“Everyone thinks they know what someone is going through and maybe we’re quick as a society to judge people, and maybe we should look at it as the glass-half-full as opposed to the glass-half-empty and try to see the good in people and what they’re going through and why they’re going through those things and how its affecting them, instead of necessarily trying to paint every individual into one corner, when no one really knows what the full picture looks like,” he said.
So here he is, arriving a week ago to skate with and play one game with the Abbotsford Canucks of the AHL. Hamonic participated in Saturday night’s overtime home loss to the Ontario Reign, chipping in one assist. Needless to say, he’s anxious to join the NHL line-up.
“It was nice to get a game,” Hamonic said, “I guess it’s been since last May since we played last, so I feel good, I’ve been training, physically I feel like I’m ready to go. My wind is good, my skating, all of the attributes that I bring to be a good hockey player, I feel that they’re there, and ready. Whenever “Greener” and his staff think I’m ready to come in and help the team, it’s a coach’s decision at this point. If you’re asking me I’d want to play right away.”
“He looked sharp, I think he looked better today than I thought he would,” Green said. “He’s kept himself in phenomenal condition, leaner maybe than he has in the past. It’ll be a day-to-day thing. We’ll see if he’s ready, we’ll talk to him, maybe he plays tomorrow.”
Green admitted that Hamonic has some catching up to do as it relates to familiarizing with systems and NHL game speeds.
With Hamonic’s arrival, left-shot defenceman Jack Rathbone was loaned to Abbotsford to make room. Suddenly the NHL Canucks find themselves with five options on the right side; Hamonic, Tyler Myers, Tucker Poolman, Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs. On the left side it’s Quinn Hughes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who missed practice Monday, and Brad Hunt. There’s a likelihood that Burroughs or another option could play the left side.
As for Covid-19 shot protocols and the NHL, Hamonic has four home games to work with, then three on the road in the United States on November 11, 13, and 14 in Colorado, Vegas, and Anaheim respectively. If not fully vaccinated, returning to Canada for the game on November 17th might create a hitch.
“I’m happy to be here” Hamonic added. “That’s the hardest part of what I’ve been going through, that I haven’t been around, so today was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time being on the ice with the guys and being back out there. That’s the funnest part of my life.”