Nick Spaling sets down his PS3 controller, not to head to Bridgestone Arena, but because he’s letting his captain’s dog, Dug, out for a washroom break.
Waiting to find out if he’d play a third season for the Nashville Predators in the NHL this year, the forward wasn’t ready to commit to buying or renting a house in Music City USA. So newly re-signed Predators captain Shea Weber took him in.
“Obviously we weren’t playing or getting paid and I figured it would be easier for him to move into my place than to rent a place and pay for something when he didn’t need to,” says Weber.
“It’s been great. At first it was supposed to be pretty temporary, but with the situation and not knowing my whereabouts, he offered up his place and made it pretty comfortable to be here,” says Spaling. “It was a good home away from home and there’s lots to learn from him. He’s a professional and there’s a lot about him to model myself after, both on and off the ice.”
Gone are the bellows for Spaling to cut the grass or do the chores at the family dog kennel in Drayton, Ontario. Now it’s listening to the same man in the home he listens to at the rink. Weber, being a Gold Medalist, isn’t necessarily a bad guy to be living with for a third-year player like Spaling.
“At first it was kind of overlooked, you treat him more like living with a friend but I think there’s a lot to learn,” says Spaling. “His routine, his dedication at all times. He listens to his body and does what it says. If he’s feeling tired, he’s making sure we have a masseuse over or he’s going to bed early and taking all the right things to feel better the next day. He takes care of his body.”
It would be hard for a 24-year-old like Spaling not to learn something from Weber, three years his senior. He’s been in the league for seven years, and won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships, World Championships and the Olympics. However, the learning curve bends both ways.
“Obviously he’s a little bit younger than I am and it’s nice being able to relate to a guy in that way and help him with any issues he has,” says Weber. “Its pretty easy, I mean he’s a pretty easy going guy. He wasn’t one of those high maintenance guys. It was good to try and get the flow of camp going before it even gets started.”
There may not have been the sleeping and snoring on team flights; there was still banging and clanging at workouts and video sessions, although these sessions were a bit different.
“We’d usually wake up around 7:00am, eat breakfast, go to the rink, work out, skate, go to lunch with the guys, and come back and play some video games or watch a couple of our TV shows we had on the go; Sons of Anarchy, Homeland and Revenge,” says Spaling.
While the 10-or-so Predators spending the lockout in Nashville weren’t running guns and cracking skulls like the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, it was important for them to have the same sense of closeness found in the fictional town of Charming. They made hospital visits; some played in charity games, and as an ode to television’s motorcycle outlaws, some grew beards.
“I modelled my beard after Sons of Anarchy, but I don’t know if it was worthy,” says Spaling. “One of the guys threw it out at one of the meetings and I like any excuse not to shave and just let it go so it was one of the strongest beards I’ve grown. I had a lot of fun with it, but a lot of the guys had a better beard than me. Chris Mason had the best beard by far. It was pretty impressive.”
The beards are now gone. So too is Spaling. He has his own place in Nashville, now that he knows he has a job to do.