Be a good teammate.
Give 110 percent every shift.
Don't touch the remote.
Those are the rules Robert Thomas will have to abide by for the foreseeable future if he hopes to be a good roommate and get his rookie season in the NHL off to a good start. Now that the 19-year-old has moved from simply hoping to earn a roster spot with the St. Louis Blues to actually earning one, he has just one more move to make, and that's moving all of his stuff into former Blue Keith Tkachuk's basement.
"I know what it was like at that age when I was a young guy being on my own in the NHL," Tkachuk said. "Together with (Blues General Manager) Doug Armstrong, we thought it would be a good idea to have Robby come live with us. These kids aren't equipped yet to take care of themselves, so we thought it would be a good idea to take him in and make him part of the family."
Keith and his wife, Chantal, are no strangers to having incredibly talented athletes under their roof. Their oldest son, Matthew, moved out in August to begin his third season with the Calgary Flames. Brady Tkachuk, who was drafted by Ottawa in the first round last June, made his NHL debut on Monday against the Boston Bruins, and their daughter, Taryn, although still living at home, is an accomplished field hockey player.
While some parents see their children growing up and moving out as an opportunity to relax and take it easy, the Tkachuks are quite the opposite. They simply adopt someone else.
Video: Robert Thomas enjoying living in the Tkachuk house
They have a history of doing it, actually.
When David Backes received his first call up to the Blues, it was the Tkachuks who gave him a place to stay.
Lee Stempniak... same thing.
"Walt took me in, fed me, taught me the ways of the NHL and professional adult life that have allowed me to have a long career in this League," Backes told stlouisblues.com. "I am forever grateful for the generous gesture and guidance."
Thomas is hoping he can find success in the NHL in the same way that Keith's other apprentices have, but first and foremost, he's just trying to stay out of trouble with his landlord.
So what's the best way to play it safe?
"Stay out of his chair and don't touch the controller," said Matthew Tkachuk, who was Thomas' teammate with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights when they won the Memorial Cup in 2016. "My dad definitely doesn't like it when anybody touches the controller other than him, and he has his seat in the house that nobody is allowed to sit in but him. I think those would be my only two pieces of advice..."
"...Oh, wait, there's one more," Matthew added. "You're not watching anything on TV on Thursday night other than Blue Bloods."
All of that is good advice for Thomas, to be sure. While the Blues rookie tries to get comfortable in the Tkachuk house - it shouldn't be too hard with a big screen TV, the "biggest couch you've ever seen" and even a gym and hockey shooting room - he also is beginning to get a feel for life in the NHL. Thomas began slow in the preseason but picked up steam with a three-assist performance in his third game on Sept. 23, a 5-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He impressed enough over the course of training camp to begin the regular season on a line with Ivan Barbashev and Sammy Blais, which is where he finds himself as Thursday's game against Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames approaches.
Things are likely to only get better for Thomas. Having one of the greatest American-born players in the house to ask for advice and guidance should be a big advantage as he tries to establish himself and live up to his potential - the same potential the Blues saw in him when they selected him in the first round (No. 20 overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft.
"My parents didn't really play hockey," Thomas told stlouisblues.com. "My dad played, but not at the highest level. To have Walt around the house to use as an extra tool to my development is really important. I think it will be mostly me asking the questions, but he'll definitely be sharing a lot."
"Being 19 years old, there's going to be a lot of ups and downs," Keith said. "I'll be able to watch games, and if he wants to chat about them or needs help in another way, some days are going to be tougher than others. You've got to be there for them, pick them up and help them out because you want him to do well long term."
Said Matthew, "I was telling Robby, there's no better situation in your first year than having my dad there. It's another outlet than just your teammates or coaches - a guy who's been there, done that. I know it was awhile ago, but he was one of the best that did it. Having him under the same roof, having him at dinner to ask him things like 'What time should I get to the rink tomorrow? What should I be wearing on the plane?' All that little stuff, there's no better person that he could learn from than my dad. I learned from him, my brother learned from him. It's like my dad has three boys now."
For the Tkachuks, allowing Thomas to move into their home isn't just an act of kindness, it's also a way to return a favor. When Matthew and Brady trained with former NHLer Gary Roberts in Toronto in the offseason, Thomas' parents opened up their nearby home to the Tkachuk boys, so their families have grown quite close over the last several years.
They're close enough that Thomas almost feels safe in hanging the World Junior Championships gold medal he won with Team Canada in Brady's room, just for bragging rights. The Tkachuks have a long history with USA Hockey - Keith starred for Team USA in the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey, while Matthew and Brady each spent time with the USA Hockey Development Program.
"If my dad catches wind of that, that gold medal will be in the trash can in the blink of an eye," Matthew said.
Hockey rivalries aside, the Tkachuks are hoping Thomas can get off to a good start in the NHL and sustain a long, fruitful career.
"He's such a great player, but he's a way better person," Matthew said of Thomas. "I know he's going to be great this year. I'm excited because there's still a little part of me that grew up a Blues fan and if I'm not playing, I'm watching them. Now with Robert being on the team, I'll be watching a lot more. I know he's going to be an impact player right away."
"He's a quiet kid, still wet behind the ears, but he wants to be a player," Keith said. "He's a great person. That's what I love about him."
Just stay out of Big Walt's chair, Robby.
And don't you dare touch that remote.