Blake Comeau was born in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan -- equidistant between Saskatoon and Edmonton. He played junior hockey in Kelowna, British Columbia, about 800 miles away from his home. He knows about driving throughout Western Canada.
As the Stars spend this week in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, we asked Comeau (who has played with the Islanders, Flames, Blue Jackets, Penguins, Avalanche and Stars) about the way of life in the Western Hockey League and a few other subjects in our latest edition of On the Fly.
What was your longest road trip in juniors?
That would have been (from Kelowna) to Brandon, Manitoba. I want to say that would be 24 hours. It was actually a fun ride. You got to spend a lot of time with the guys and some of your best memories were on the bus.
Weren't those trips difficult?
I think it was hardest when I was still in high school because we would get in pretty late and our team policy was no matter how late, you had to go to class. So there were some very short nights that you had to go to school. And then, we had some scary drives when you had to go to Prince George through the Kootenays -- a lot of deer and moose, especially when you're going through the snow there.
Did your parents make a lot of road trips to watch you play?
My parents put on so many miles ever since I was young. We were in northern Saskatchewan and playing in an Alberta league, so we were driving four hours when I was in junior high school. And then even when I was in (major) junior and my parents were still working, I remember they would leave on a Friday, drive 15 hours from Meadow Lake to Kelowna, watch a couple of games and then drive back home again so they could be at work on Monday. It was definitely a great support system that I had. It didn't matter where me or my sister had to go, they made sure we got there.
What were their jobs?
My dad (George) was a projects accountant and worked at the pulp mill and my mom (Lynn) worked as a receptionist. Once we left, my dad got a job in Calgary and they lived there for a while and then they retired. And then they moved to Edmonton close to where my sister lives, so they are close to the grandkids, which they love.
Is there a difference between hockey players from Eastern Canada and Western Canada?
I think the Western Hockey League has always been more of a grind it style of game. We've had high-end guys, skill guys, come out of the league. But when I was playing, it always seemed like the high scorer was around 100 points and the Quebec guys or OHL guys were around 130, so it was a bit of different styles. I was able to go to three different Memorial Cups, so you got to see it there. We played against London when they hosted it and went to Quebec. We played against Corey Perry and (Sidney) Crosby and his Rimouski team, so it was interesting to see the differences in how each league played.
What was your first car?
I had a 1993 Cavalier. It was a manual, so I had to learn how to drive a manual early. I remember going to my grandpa's farm and my dad teaching me to drive a stick. I had it in Saskatoon when I played Midget, and I it was one of the nicest cars of all my friends, so I felt pretty good about that.
Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Comeau beats Rinne on odd-man rush
Are you surprised people don't know how to drive manuals now?
Yeah, I think it's a lost art. I think it's like riding a bike. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. I always thought it was a handy skill to have, but nowadays there's less and less manual vehicles, so you don't need it.
What kind of music do you like to listen to?
It kind of depends on my mood. I like to listen to all genres: country, rock, hip hop, dance. It depends on the time of the day, whether I'm at the rink or I'm driving to the rink in the morning.
Have the cities you have lived in dictated your tastes at all?
Yeah, I feel like when I was in Calgary, and here in Dallas, too, you listen to a lot of country. There's a lot of country radio stations and it's just playing a lot all around.
Video: COL@DAL: Comeau reflects on 800th game in Stars' win
Any memorable concerts?
We went to Eric Church as a team and had a suite, and that was one of the best live shows I've ever seen.
You create a lot of the music that is played in the dressing room here, how did that come about?
I think it started when I was in Pittsburgh. Nobody was the DJ there, it was kind of the same music over and over and it got a little bit irritating. So I had some music I liked and I started to play it, and lot of the guys enjoyed it. It started there and carried over to Denver and then here. It's a similar playlist. I think I have a pretty good feeling for what guys like. Sometimes it's tough make 20 guys happy, but you throw in a mix of everything.
What would you be doing if you didn't play hockey?
As I've gotten older, I think I would have liked to do something that has to do with finance. I've enjoyed managing my money, learning about it. Growing up, I was lucky that I had my dad teach me some things, and that has helped a lot. But I don't think we teach it enough in school, just personal financing, taking care of things, investing. It's something I've taken a liking to and something I think I could do that would keep me interested.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.
Read more: Blake Comeau, On the Fly, Dallas Stars