Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has opted out of playing once the 2019-20 NHL season resumes, becoming the first player in the league deciding to skip this summer's restart. Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced Hamonic's decision Friday night.
"Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program," Treliving said in a statement, via ESPN. "Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs. While we will miss Travis in our line-up, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round."
Hamonic, who's battled an upper-body injury prior to the suspension of play and only picked up 12 points (three goals, nine assists) over 50 games this season, won't join the team out of concerns for his family amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement from Hamonic's representatives, he explained his opt-out decision was for concern over his daughter, who was hospitalized in 2019 because of a respiratory illness when she was eight months old. COVID-19 is commonly considered a respiratory illness, but many of those who have tested positive can experience a wide range of different symptoms, including possible effects on the heart.
"Last year, we spent the longest, scariest and hardest week of our lives by our daughter's hospital bedside," Hamonic wrote in the statement. "We were unsure of what would come next but with God's strength our little girl fought her respiratory virus and recovered. We saw what a respiratory virus can do to our healthy little girl and it's something no parent wants or should go through."
The NHL season was paused four months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic and will return by heading straight into the playoffs with a 24-team format. The NHL and NHL Players Association recently ratified the return-to-play plan, the schedule was released and the hub cities were officially announced on Friday. NHL Players will have until Monday to inform their teams of their opt-out decisions.
The Flames are scheduled to face the Winnipeg Jets in a five-game playoff series that begins Aug. 1 in Edmonton, Canada.