It’s kind of hard to put into words but it really calms you down. You really take in and listen to everything he has to say. He’s been through it all before. It was great. - Bill Arnold
CALGARY, AB -- There is no doubt that making your NHL debut is a nerve-wracking experience but Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau got a bit of a reprieve from the anxiety thanks to Mike Cammalleri.
Last weekend, the veteran made a point of spending time with the pair of rookies prior to suiting up for their first NHL game in Vancouver. He spotted them sitting down for supper alone and made his way over to eat with them.
"We kind of just shot it. He went to Michigan, he’s a college guy. He talked about his days at Michigan and just told us to go out there and play our game," Arnold said. "When you have a veteran like that come over and just talk to you, kind of settle you down, it really helps out a ton."
While it sounds like a simple gesture, it meant the world to both rookies to have the veteran check in with them before their milestone night.
"You don’t really expect so when they come over, it means a ton," Arnold explained. "It’s kind of hard to put into words but it really calms you down. You really take in and listen to everything he has to say. He’s been through it all before. It was great."
"That’s just one example. The entire team, the whole locker room has been great. I really appreciate everything they’ve done."
Ironically, Cammalleri was also feeling a bit gun-shy before sitting down with Arnold and Gaudreau, wondering if they even wanted him to sit with them.
"You think to yourself, 'Ahh, they probably don't want to talk to me. What do they want to talk to me for? I might as well try and give my two cents, help these two guys out.'
"They just looked so anxious and excited. That's cool that they said that because I do remember those experiences for me. Even as a rookie, whether one of the guys you respected ... asked you how your day was and helped you out, it felt good."
Cammalleri's presence and advice may offer up an extra dose of inspiration for Gaudreau in particular. At 5-foot-9 and 190-pounds, Cammalleri isn't exactly the definition of 'physically imposing' but the 31-year-old has carved out a great career despite this stature.
Gaudreau stands just 5-foot-8 and is 159-pounds and many have wondered if his size will hinder his ability to produce in the pro ranks. After seeing the diminutive winger in action, Cammalleri doesn't think it will be too much of an issue.
"You've got to identify what makes you effective," Cammalleri stated. "Neither of us are tall guys but I think I play a little bit of a different game that way. For me, I was able to be very strong at a young age and it allowed me to kind of compete in certain ways with a physical strength.
"Johnny's so quick and elusive and almost slimy out there. Maybe [adding size] helps him, maybe it doesn't help him. I think for him, he's got to keep doing the things that he does really well and let that translate into this level."
After finding out the newbies went the wrong direction when they entered the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday for their exit medicals and interviews, the veteran couldn't help but crack a joke at his fellow collegians' expense.
"They went to BC, not Michigan," he chuckled. "I don't know how smart they are. They probably didn't get in to Michigan, either of them. Even though the program would obviously love to have them, they probably couldn't get through the academic criteria would be my guess."