On the ice, Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders has Andrew MacDonald as his defense partner. However, off the ice, Hamonic pairs with someone new for every single home game, his D-Partner of the Game. The special D-Partner of the Game gets to have a pretty cool night at the game: high fives the players as they head out, sits in Hamonic’s personal VIP seats for the game, hangs out with the players post-game in the locker room, gets autographs and photos and just has a pretty fun night of it.
These kids deserve to have a good time and a night they can remember, after all. Hamonic’s D-Partner of the Game is always a child who has lost a parent or loved one.
Hamonic knows how that is. After all, his father died suddenly of a heart attack when he was just 10 years old and living on the family farm in Manitoba. He’s 22 now, but still remembers that memory and calls it the most difficult thing he’s ever had to go through. For young Hamonic, being able to go to an exhibition game not long after his dad’s death was actually a really therapeutic experience for he and his mom. Going to games also became a tradition for them.
So now, as a young adult, he wants to help other kids have some fun and maybe forget their troubles for a little while. However, he does provide a measure of therapy to his D-Partner of the Game: he learns each kid’s story, talks to them about it and will even look over old pictures with them while giving them a tour of the locker room.
Sure, sometimes his D-Partner of the Game isn’t a huge hockey fan–yet, although an experience like that one might just light a spark for them. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that someone who’s been there and knows firsthand what a loss like that feels like is extending a hand, helping other people in that most unenviable state have a good time and maybe even heal a little bit.