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The Horak-Stempniak connection

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Calgary Flames pivot Roman Horak will admit the transition from junior to the NHL isn't an easy one.

First of all, the game is radically different. There is no comparison when it comes to the speed. Physically, it's a grind on bodies who are used to still-growing teenagers checking them rather than beefed-up men. Players are smarter. They read plays and see the ice with a clarity rarely seen in junior leagues.

Then there is the lifestyle. Gone are the never-ending bus rides and nights in motels. Suddenly there are chartered flights and decadent hotels. You're no longer under the watchful eye of a billet. You have to master time management skills to ensure you're always on top of your game.

And when you're one of the few rookies on a veteran-laden squad, the feeling of isolation can creep in quickly.

Thankfully for Horak, he has had a guiding hand helping him navigate through his first month in the League.

Winger Lee Stempniak - who is Horak's roommate on the road - has taken the 20 year-old under his wing.

"He's a great guy," the soft-spoken Czech said on Thursday. "It makes you feel more comfortable, like around the team ... he's been great."

The mentorship has proved beneficial for both men. Stempniak insists he has learned as much from Horak as the youngster has gleaned from him. The pair have been playing on the same line as of late and have meshed well, showcasing how well the mentorship has worked out.

"I'm just trying to help Roman along. Just show what it is to be a professional. Every day, you've got to go out and try to get better. Be better and work hard. He's already got those traits and it's just giving him a little boost at times.

"We bounce some things off each other. It's been, I think, just a mutual learning experience."

While Stempniak wasn't out on the ice for Horak's first NHL goal, the Ceske Budejovice native assisted on the winger's first tally of the year. To be apart of that is something Horak says he'll never forget.

"Lee's first goal of the season, I was there," he grinned. "It's always nice to be a part of goals and I hope he was happy."

Head coach Brent Sutter appreciates the veterans lending a helping hand to the younger members of his troops, citing how valuable it was for him to have players look out for him when he ended the League.

"It's huge for any team. Leadership is a big part of it. As you get older in the League, there was someone that took you under their wing when you were coming through it and you can't have a short memory with that."

Follow Torie Peterson on Twitter | @ToriePeterson

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