NHL’s youth receiving education from veterans
Laundry day in the Foote family falls in the middle of the week
and Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene dutifully brings his
clothes up from the basement to be washed, folded and returned.
All free of charge by the wife of teammate and captain Adam
Foote. It’s just one of the many perks of living under their
Foote has opened his house the last two seasons to the dynamic
19-year-old scorer, who also enjoys home-cooked meals and
companionship with the family’s two young boys.
Then there’s this: The mentoring Duchene receives from the
39-year-old Foote at and away from the rink.
This is simply part of hockey’s culture, prepping and preparing
the next wave of players.
From Duchene living with Foote, to Penguins star Sidney Crosby
once residing with Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, from Sharks captain
Joe Thornton guiding San Jose’s youngsters, to Red Wings defenseman
Nicklas Lidstrom assisting fellow Swedes’ transition into the
league, there’s a nurturing nature to the hard-hitting NHL.
Instead of sticking young players with big checks (think Cowboys
rookie Dez Bryant’s dinner tab in Dallas), veterans teach them the
art of big checks.
Just like they were once instructed.
”There’s just good hockey karma in paying it back,” said
Brendan Shanahan, a 21-year veteran who retired last season and now
works in the league’s front office. ”It’s a matter of being
thankful and being hopeful you can have a positive impact on the
person, not just on the hockey player. It’s just the right thing to
After all, ”hockey players are just good guys,” former
Avalanche standout Peter Forsberg explained, grinning.
”It’s tough for a young kid coming into the league,” Forsberg
said. ”We all know how it was for us when we came into the
That’s why veterans take younger players under their wings, open
up their homes and their knowledge of the game, even if it might
come back to cost them a job down the road.
”At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We can’t
win without them,” said Foote, who was asked by the team to host
Duchene last season and enjoyed it so much he extended the
invitation another year. ”And when your career is all said and
done, you want to be able to walk away and say you did things the
Not that housing a teenager has been easy for Foote and his
wife, Jennifer, who already are kept busy by their 8-year-old and
”I now know exactly what I’m going to go through when my boys
reach those teenage years, where they have everything figured
out,” Foote said.
To earn his keep, Duchene performs chores around the house,
helps shuttle the boys home from school and entertains them, taking
the kids to Nuggets games and working with them on stick drills in
Now if only Duchene would let the dogs out.
”He comes home when we’re not in the house and he won’t let
them out,” Foote said, feigning astonishment. ”That probably
bothers me more than the dishes.”
Around the Foote household there’s one hard rule – no overdosing
on hockey. Ice time and family time must remain separate.
For Duchene, who obsesses about the game, that balance has
provide a valuable lesson.
”As soon as you leave the rink, try to leave it at the rink,”
said Duchene, who settles up with Foote on rent at the end of each
season. ”That way you sleep better, you eat better, you’re more at
peace with yourself. That’s something Footey is really good
And one of the reasons living with Foote is paying off, the same
way the experience did for Crosby when he resided with Lemieux.
Crosby picked up as much at home from Lemieux as he did at the
”That helped a lot,” Crosby said. ”There’s so many ups and
downs over the course of a hockey season, so just trying to keep
everything pretty even-keel is real important.”
Keeping his emotions even-keel was difficult for New York
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto when he arrived in the Big
Apple as a rookie last season.
Coming from the small town of Stouffville, Ontario, the big city
was quite intimidating.
Enter Rangers captain Chris Drury, who showed the wide-eyed
rookie the ropes.
Del Zotto will always appreciate Drury calming his nerves,
easing his transition into the league.
”He just goes out of his way to make sure you’re doing well and
everything’s well,” Del Zotto explained. ”He takes the time to
talk to you. He cares and that’s why he’s such a great captain.
”It’s tough in New York City, so much going on there. Guys have
helped me out along the way, helped me go forward.”
Shanahan knows the feeling – a team once looked out for him as
When he was a rookie with New Jersey in 1987, he lived with a
family in an arrangement Devils helped set up, just as the team had
for Ken Daneyko before him and Scott Niedermayer after. The family
bought Shanahan’s groceries, did his laundry and gave him huge
living quarters for the low, low price of $400 a month.
”I nearly fell off my chair, thought it was so much money,”
Shanahan said, laughing. ”It wasn’t until I moved into my own
place a year later that I knew it was complete charity.
”It’s the little things that help. Sometimes, it’s not about
living with a guy so much as setting him up with trustworthy people
like accountants or financial advisers.”
The 40-year-old Lidstrom is one of the elder statesman of the
Red Wings, constantly looking out for players who need his
He’s been watching over fellow Swedes such as Henrik Zetterberg
and Tomas Holmstrom since they arrived in the league, helping them
bridge the cultural differences.
Anything they need – banker, insurance salesman, real estate
agent – he’s happy to help.
The assistance has proven invaluable, taking the pressure off
the players so they can focus on hockey.
”Nick’s helped me a lot for sure, and my wife, too,” Holmstrom
said. ”Where to live, what to do, where to go. … Nick was the
only Swede who was here at the time, so it was easy for me to lean
Nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary for many NHL
”The older guys have always shown the younger guys the ropes.
This is the way it’s always been, passed down from generation to
generation,” San Jose’s Thornton said. ”There’s a lot of heritage
Not to mention the life lessons.
”The one thing that really impresses me is even if (Foote)
thinks he doesn’t do well at the rink, it’s like it didn’t happen
when he’s home with his family,” Duchene said. ”He’s a great role
model. I’ve definitely benefited from that.”
And the clean laundry.
AP Sports Writers Noah Trister and Larry Lage in Detroit, and
Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.