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STALL MATES: Travis Zajac

The Devils veteran reflects on his various stall mates throughout his career with New Jersey

by Amanda Stein / NewJerseyDevils.com

Travis Zajac never got a phone call.

So he figured he'd just show up at the rink.

"Oh yeah, I do remember it." he said. "It was the day after the final cuts and just seeing… coming in the next day and seeing my jersey hanging there. I still remember that moment because, I walked in and my name plate was there. And I didn't get the call the night before, so I just kind of showed up."

Zajac had made the Devils roster."I'm like 'Oh, sweet! I think I'm here for now' and that's kind of how it all happened."

The 34-year-old is on the verge of hitting the 1000 game mark, so asking him to remember some of his first locker room experiences forces him to think back to over 14 years ago.

"I was fortunate where I came into a veteran group. And they really, really helped me become a good player."

"I was beside Zach Parise and I think John Madden," trying to remember where his first stall was located in the old Continental Arena. "But for some reason I remember Colin White a lot, but I don't think I was actually beside him, but it just felt like I was beside him."

Zajac doesn't remember Parise or Madden ever giving him much a rookie treatment, getting him to tend to their needs or anything like that. They tended to leave Travis alone.

Instead, Travis would observe the way they might have tormented some other veterans in the group. And as he recalled the stories, it sounded as though Madden was the ring-leader.

"Toenails," Zajac said.

"I remember John Madden used to cut his toenails," the began the story. "And he'd leave them in Colin White's stall every day. And Jay Pandolfo, I think was part of it, too. Colin would lose it. He'd be like, 'How do all these guys have nails growing every day to leave in my stall?'"

"I'd be in my stall and watched what they'd do," he continued. "They'd cut one nail at a time and leave it there. I think they just loved getting a kick out of him and he, you know, he's an easy-going guy."

The toenails never ended up in Zajac's stall.

"I was just too quiet, so they didn't do it to me."
"There's older guys who had a lot of fun there and pull some pranks and I just laughed at them. We'd be laughing about it. They kept it light."

Locker's sometimes move around, players come and go from teams, shifts in the room are made. Like that time Zajac found himself sitting next to a future Hall of Famer.

"I'd sit beside Jagr every once in a while," Zajac said.

Of course, that would be Jaromir Jagr.  

 "And you know, he's… he'd just do his whole thing."

'His whole thing' involved a whole lot of coffee and treats, to Zajac's surprise.

"I just remember sitting there, watching him drinking a lot of coffee," Travis laughed. "And eating muffins. He loved, he loved muffins before the game. And I'm like, 'You know what, this game is all about skill and talents and not so much nutrition!' And a lot of it's just, you know, you get, you go out there, you've got to compete and be mentally be ready to go."

"And that just showed that he was probably one of the best players ever to play this game. He's eating muffins! I'm like, 'this, this guy is amazing!'"

In the present-day locker room, Zajac sits in the same stall he always has since the move to the new locker room. His stall is by a set of doors that lead into the equipment room and the hallway that runs to the entrance of the game rink. He sits at the end of a cluster, so only has a single stall mate on his left-hand side.

"It was Adam Henrique first," he recalled. "He was great. I think we're similar, similar people in the way we're pretty easy going and not too much bothers us. But since then, this stall has kind of been rotated."

Now?

"There's been a lot of butts in that stall."

Right now, the stall belongs to Joey Anderson.

I wondered what a low-key Zajac was like as a stall mate to those who sat next to him.

The answer: pretty easy.

Anderson sits to Travis' left, so Travis conducts his business to his right.

"I always have my three bottles of water, with kind of other mixes in there. I have my tape , three rolls, and then I keep my two sticks on the garbage can, leaned up against it. Oh, that's something I like, I like having a garbage next to me. I like to tape my sticks between every period, so I like to be able to throw it away."

The mention of the garbage can makes Zajac smirk, the wheels begin to turn in his head, there are actually little quirks he has in and around his own stall, come to think of it.

"My thing is, I really like to see the clock and the white-boards. I really want to see the board and the clock and not be too far away or have to turn to see it. So that's my whole thing. I want to see the time on the clock and when I need to get ready and, when the coach comes in and things like that."

So how does that work in a visitor's room, not one are alike. Do the equipment staff who set up the room have to get creative? Make sure the low-key Devils veteran has all that he needs?

"They do now, now that we've had a talk!" he laughed.

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