For Kyle Palmieri, walking into a new locker room seemed like no problem. Sure, there were nerves that first time he walked into the Anaheim Ducks room when he was called up to the NHL, but his personality is well-suited for a moment like that.
"You go with the 'seen, not heard' mentality," Palmieri told me what he learned right off the bat in a new room. "And that's well, pretty natural for me as far as the seen, not heard."
That first lesson came by way on the Anaheim teammate who ended up being the first stall mate he can distinctly remember.
"George Parros," Palmieri said, pausing and reflecting. "He was the first one. I got shifted around I think pretty much every stall in the Anaheim locker room. But George was my first full stall mate, and I think Kyle Chipchura was on the other side. Todd Marchant was there, we kind of had a little cluster."
Parros, who retired with 1092 penalty minutes, was for a moment an intimidating presence but guided Palmieri through the Anaheim locker room.
"I remember George, obviously a big, tough guy. And a little scary but anyone who knows him knows he's such a nice guy off the ice," Palmieri said. "He was very talkative, and welcoming and he's got such a great personality that it was very easy that all the nerves that come along with your first call-up… and we had a very veteran team, so he kind of showed me the way."
Palmieri spent five years with the Anaheim Ducks, and thinking back to Parros as his first stall mate, he began to crack a smile thinking back next to the veteran tough-guy, who also appeared to have a couple of quirks.
"I remember my first game, we were kind of crunched up against where the white-boards were. We had a TV that we would watch our video, but you couldn't see it from our angle and the tape cabinets were right up next to us. So, everyone would be coming in and out, and [George] would open up the one tape cabinet and he'd put a little piece of paper and said, 'this is our TV in this corner.' I forget what he had drawn on it, but that's what I remember most from my first call-up."
Parros also made sure the rookie had the lay of the land.
"He told me what to do, what not to do," Kyle recalled. "Whose way to get in, and whose way to stay out of."
What were the 'not-to-do's'? Palmieri had zero hesitation when answering that question.
It all focused on a player across the room.
"Stay out of [Corey] Perry's way," Palmieri said. "He's very superstitious and habitual. Playing the amount of games I did with Corey, you can basically base whatever the game clock is at, off of where he is in his warmup and it never changes. It's actually pretty cool to see. Like, it never, never changes. You didn't want to come near his stall because if his stick got touched or anything like that, he was weird about it all.
"I got shifted around a lot and then one time I found myself next to Perry and I was pretty nervous about it as far as where my stuff was in regard to his space."
Now in the Devils locker room, he feels good about his current location.
On bad days, he only has to look left to know his spirits will soon be lifted.
"I've sat next to Woody for, three or four years now," Palmieri said in reference to Miles Wood. "And he's one of those guys that really boost your confidence as far as how funny he thinks you are. He laughs at everything. Sometimes it makes you feel good if you're down in the dumps, you come in and you just look at him and sometimes that makes him laugh. He always keeps things light and I enjoy sitting next to him."
In mid-December, Palmieri found himself with only Wood as a stall-mate. To his right had been Taylor Hall, who was traded on December 16th. Suddenly, there was an empty stall next to him for the first time.
Up until last week the stall remained unoccupied, but not because Kyle didn't try to have it filled.
"After Hallsy got traded I had the unique opportunity to hand-pick my next stall mate and Kevin Rooney was approached by me and Miles, and the other guys over in this corner and he chose to not sit with us. So, I took that as a bit of a slap in the face but now that [Nick Merkley] is here he's a great addition."
Before Merkley took his spot next to Palmieri, I wondered what it might be like to have a whole extra stall next to you. Do you relish in the extra room?
"Our stalls are definitely big enough," Palmieri said. "But if I have to use any extra space, I'll take Woody's!"
Even if there's no one next to you?