Players recount roommate horror tales, most glad they get their own rooms now

 

Flames and Jackets relish new CBA policy that offers more privacy (and less snoring problems) on the road

 
 
 
 
Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin checks Matt Stajan on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Stajan chatted about how players no longer have roommates on the road under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
 

Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin checks Matt Stajan on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Stajan chatted about how players no longer have roommates on the road under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Photograph by: Kirk Irwin, Getty Images

COLUMBUS — This is a true story. It only sounds like a scene from a horror movie.

“One time I’m sleeping in my bed and he comes over right beside me — he is looking at me, staring at me,” recalls Steve Begin, dead serious. “I turn and I see this big face and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ He doesn’t say a word. He stays there for five seconds. Then he leaves, goes to the bathroom. He comes back, sits on his bed, and he’s still looking at me. I go, ‘Hey! Are you OK? What’s going on?’ And he’s like, ‘What’s happening?’ I go, ‘I don’t know. You tell me.’ I was kind of scared.

“After that, I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t know what he would do.”

Spooky, yes? But have no fear.

The Night of the Sleepwalking Guillaume Latendresse and other chilling tales — starring a cast of remote-control hogs, superstitious nincompoops, log-sawing sidekicks, and noisy dawn-risers — are a thing of the past.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association fought for a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that entitles members to their own hotel rooms on the road.

So no more doubling up — except for those on entry-level contracts. For the Calgary Flames, that means only T.J. Brodie and Roman Cervenka shack up, no one else.

Freshly into the new arrangement, most of the players are loving it.

“The biggest thing is sleep, right?” says Mark Giordano. “Some nights you can’t get to sleep early — and the other guy already is — so you’re tossing and turning in the dark. This way, it’s just easier.”

Plus, privacy has its place. After all, these are professionals on a business trip.

“We’re grown men,” says Matt Stajan. “When we’re on the road as much as we are, you need some alone time, a chance to talk to your family. If a guy wants to be on Skype to talk to his wife and his little guy or girl at home, he shouldn’t have to have one of his buddies on the bed next to him listening in. It’s awkward for anybody.

“It makes you wonder why it wasn’t like this before. Why it took this long, we don’t know.”

According to Adrian Aucoin, this was bound to happen. The Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman points out that youngsters nowadays are more focused than ever, more adamant about rest and everything else.

Single rooms make sense.

“It’s a whole new game — people eat right, people sleep right,” says Aucoin. “Roomies used to be counted on to wake you up in the morning. Right or wrong, guys were hungover, so you kind of wanted someone to babysit you sometimes.”

But in a billion-dollar operation, getting adults to bunk together — didn’t that seem odd?

“Never seemed weird to me,” replies Aucoin. “I went to (Boston University), so I was in a dorm with three other guys. It’s like family. You’re best buddies with the guys. When Mark Messier signed in Vancouver (in 1997), that was the first year he had his own room. He’d roomed with Brian Leetch his whole time in New York. I’m like, ‘Wow — even a guy like you had a roommate?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, it was awesome.’

“It was as much a part of the game as (morning) skates, but some people think that they are the most asinine thing you could do — come here (to the rink) and waste energy. But if it works for you, why not?”

The downfall of the roomie system marks the departure of another tradition.

Like wooden sticks. Like ad-free boards.

And while Blair Jones is exercising the right to have his own space, he seems saddened by the development.

“It’s weird,” says Jones. “I don’t know. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone around . . . it gets a bit lonely, I guess. You don’t have a grasp. You’ve got to make calls about going for dinner or going to a movie. A bit strange.

“The team-chemistry thing — guys being tight, getting to know each other — has kind of gone by the wayside.”

Once upon a time, only starting goalies — and those who dug into their own wallets — got private rooms. But after the 2004-05 lockout, players were permitted to fly solo if they had 600 NHL games in the bank.

Nevertheless, some — for instance, roommates Shean Donovan and Daymond Langkow — chose to stick to their established living arrangement.

Craig Conroy understands.

“I always enjoyed having a roommate,” he says. “That was one of the things about playing that I really enjoyed. I would’ve missed it, for sure.”

Admittedly, Dave Lowry, an all-world snorer, tested his patience.

“I thought it was a joke the first time I heard him,” says Conroy. “You had to get earplugs. You had to be ready. It was loud. You couldn’t believe it. Amazing.”

Aucoin, too, maintains a soft spot for shared accommodations.

“If I had the right roommate, I actually preferred having a roommate,” says the 39-year-old. “It was like a buddy system. You always had someone to eat breakfast with. You always had someone to go to the rink with. You always had someone to hang out with. And that’s lost with the way the game is (going).”

scruickshank@calgaryherald.com

Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH

 
 
 
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Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin checks Matt Stajan on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Stajan chatted about how players no longer have roommates on the road under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
 

Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin checks Matt Stajan on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, Stajan chatted about how players no longer have roommates on the road under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Photograph by: Kirk Irwin, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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