Travis Hamonic becomes first NHL player to opt out of ‘Return to Play’

On Friday, Calgary Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic became the first NHL player to opt out from playing in the league’s ‘Return to Play’, which was ratified by the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) that day.

After a nearly four-month pause due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL and the NHLPA came to an agreement Friday evening, which approved a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), along with making the NHL’s ‘Return to Play’ plan official.

Part of the agreement, is that players have until Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m. to opt out of Phase 3 and 4 of the Return to Play plan. This allows players to decide for themselves if they would like to participate in activities, such as training camp, qualifying round and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hamonic was the first NHL to announce that he wouldn’t be playing followed by Vancouver Canucks forward Sven Baertschi.

Hamonic said in a statement posted to Twitter that his decision is due to the fact that his daughter contracted a very serious respiratory virus last year.

“Due to what my daughter already has gone through and the concerns if she were to catch COVID-19, I’ve decided to opt out and seek a leave of absence from the Calgary Flames for the remainder of the playoffs,” Hamonic said.

Calgary Flames’ General Manager Brad Treliving also released a statement on the team’s website:

“Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program. 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.”

For the Calgary Flames, they will be moving forward without one of their top four defenseman in their best-of-five series against the Winnipeg Jets to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Flames played without Hamonic earlier in the season when he was out with an injury in early February; unfortunately at the same time Flames’ captain and leading defenseman, Mark Giordano, was also week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Prior to being placed on Injury Reserve, Hamonic’s average ice time was 21:12 per-game — ranked third on the team, only behind Giordano and Noah Hanifin.

Hamonic had 3 goals and 9 assists for a combined 12 points in 50 games in the 2019-20 reduced season.

The Flames will return to action against the Jets on Aug. 1 with Game 1 at the Edmonton hub location.