In a new written series on NewJerseyDevils.com, Amanda Stein sits down with the players to discuss their first stall-mates.
Cory Schneider remembers his first NHL locker room neighbors fondly. It was in Vancouver, where the now 32-year-old goaltender broke onto the scene as a 22-year-old. Schneider's first full NHL season was during the 2010-11 season. Taking his spot in the Canucks locker room, Cory had a veteran goaltender on one side and a Danish right-winger to his left.
"Roberto [Luongo] was to my right," Schneider recalled. "Jannik Hansen was to my left. Jannik and I were the same age, same draft year. We played in Manitoba together." And so, began a string of seasons where Schneider was sandwiched between the two.
When it came to his right-side stall mate in Luongo, Schneider felt the relationship from the six-time All-Star was a little more in the details.
"It was more like goalie stuff, like getting ready for games," he said. "I stole a lot of ideas from him in terms of how I get dressed or some of the little things that he would put underneath his gear or stuff like that. I kind of took ideas from everybody, Curtis Sanford, Luongo, Marty… I've kind of picked off little things for myself here and there. And now [Mackenzie] is stealing them from me. It's like handing down the bible of goaltending."
Although goaltenders can be extra particular about their routines, superstitions, and intricacies, it was on Hansen that Schneider had the most to reveal.
"He's not the most agreeable guy for a Dane," he said with a smirk. "Louie was great, we got along just fine. But Jannik, I had to define some very clear rules and regulations about space."
The two knew each other well, they had been teammates with the Canucks then-AHL affiliate, Manitoba Moose, but even so, now as stall mates, there was a 'getting-to-know-you' process.
"He's very particular so I let him take up most of the space because I didn't really care. We had a friendly banter about whose stuff was what."
"He's a funny guy, he likes things a certain way," he continued. "He's a pain in the ass, in the nicest way possible. We were together for three years. We never changed [spots], he and I, we had a lot of good banter… we were like 'frienemies'."
"Frienemies" because Hansen, from what you could gather from Schneider, was quite set in his ways.
"It's like a sibling-rivalry, you kind of get on each other's nerves sometimes. Or you get sick of the guy, but you're still buddies. We went out to eat a lot on the road and he was the same way [as he was in the locker room]. He'd be like 'okay let's go to dinner now, 6 o'clock, come on. We're going." I'd have to be like "Okay Jannik, give me a second here," and he'd be like "No, we're going." And he liked things a certain way."
Slowly, Schneider, day-after-day, began to learn new things about the Danish player, things that you could only gather through hours spent sitting side-by-side.
"He yawned a lot during games, he'd always yawn…," Schneider said. "In-between periods and stuff. I'd be like 'Jannik, go have an energy drink or a coffee,' and he'd be like 'No, no, no, then I won't be able to sleep tonight.' But he played with a lot of energy, he skated hard and he played hard and it seemed to work for him. But I couldn't believe he'd be yawning, and go 'no, no, no' and he'd go out there and skate a million miles an hour."
There was also a bit of friendly competition between the two.
"We shared tape a lot though, so that worked out really well," shared Schneider. "We tried to get to the very end of the roll without using it all, so we had good challenges doing that together.
"One of us would have to go get a roll, pick one where you think there was enough tape for the both of us before we ran out, but just enough so that there was a bit left. Some days we'd run out and we lost, others we'd get it just right."
And now? Schneider sits at the very end of one of the rows of stalls in the Devils Prudential Center locker room. To his left is Mackenzie Blackwood, followed by a string of empty stalls, used when needed for call-ups. That leaves Schneider with more knowledge about Hansen from years ago, than it does on his current teammates.
"I don't know what half the guys in here do because it's just me and [Mackenzie Blackwood]. I may look across at Greeney and see what he does but all those guys in the corner, they may as well be on Mars as far as I'm concerned, as to what I know they do before a game or after games."