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Mete: Carpooling with Kovy

Getting to know Ilya Kovalchuk has been a really enjoyable experience for Victor Mete

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - We know you're loving those videos of Ilya Kovalchuk and Victor Mete arriving at the Bell Centre together on game nights.

Their simultaneous entrances aren't just coincidence, though. The pair has actually been carpooling since Kovalchuk, 36, joined the Canadiens a week-and-a-half ago.

They reside in the same building in downtown Montreal, so the ridesharing arrangement made perfect sense.

Mete is the driver and Kovalchuk is his passenger.

"He's actually living at the hotel side of where I live permanently, so it's just easiest for me to pick him up in the morning because we're literally right next to each other," said Mete, following Monday's morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "We've been driving everywhere together - to practice, home from practice, to the games, back from the games, and home from the airport."

As a huge fan of Kovalchuk growing up, the 21-year-old defenseman is certainly enjoying the experience of giving the Russian sniper a lift.

This setup obviously wasn't on Mete's radar before it happened, but he's glad everything worked out this way.

"It's pretty cool, but I guess it's a little cooler for me because I've been watching him forever," said Mete, who was only three years old when Kovalchuk made his NHL debut with the Atlanta Thrashers in October 2001. "Everyone knows who he is and what he's done in this League, so it's pretty cool to drive him around and just be with him a lot and talk and learn from him."

Mete's car ride chats with Kovy have covered a wide range of topics thus far.

It's really the perfect opportunity for the veteran and the youngster to familiarize themselves with one another.

"I'm just trying to get to know him on a personal level, so we've talked about him growing up and his family. He's been asking me about my family and where I'm from," explained Mete. "We've also talked sports. On the way to practice, we were talking about the NFL playoff games pretty much the whole car ride, who won, and how Kansas City came back against Houston."

A mutual appreciation for 'the beautiful game' also helped make them fast friends.

"I learned that he has four kids, and one of them apparently is really good at soccer," mentioned Mete, referencing Kovalchuk's 10-year-old son, Philipp. "He told me he played with the LA Galaxy (MLS) junior team, and he wants to put him somewhere in Europe. I thought that was pretty cool considering I love soccer, too."

It hasn't taken Mete long to develop a genuine appreciation for his new teammate - both on the ice and off it.

The talks have been a blast for the Habs' blueliner, and he's proud to have Kovalchuk on board.

"As a person, he's really nice and always supportive. Even when we were going through that tough skid, he's like - 'I've never seen this before, you guys are so close. We're doing everything right and we've just got to stay focused,'" revealed Mete, providing some insight into Kovalchuk's always-positive attitude. "On a professional level, he's always putting in the work. He works out after practice and on days off, too. He's working out at the gym at the hotel. It's pretty cool to see that. I'm getting some good tips."

The former fourth-round selection is the envy of all of his buddies right now.

It's not every day that you have the chance to hang with a player of Kovalchuk's stature on a daily basis, of course.

"All my friends are texting me saying - 'It's so cool. You're with a legend,'" concluded Mete. "It's definitely special for me."

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