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NHL veterans educate youth

Teach youngsters the ropes of league

DENVER – 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 roof.

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 do.”

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 league.”

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 right way.”

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 the backyard.

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 provided 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 at.”

 
Tags: hockey, NHL

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