Hotel life isn’t out of the ordinary for David Perron. After six seasons in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, bunking with a teammate in different cities during a road trip is simply part of the job and hardly even a hassle.
But this isn’t the usual hotel stay for Perron. He’s not sharing space with a teammate as they prepare to play a game the following night. Instead, his roommates are his girlfriend, two dogs and a cat. There’s no game the next day or the day after that. All that awaits Perron in Edmonton, two weeks before the Oilers start training camp on Sept. 11, is a day with an informal practice with new his teammates and another extended search for a place to live in his new city.
Perron and his family would share that hotel room for 10 days before they finally found a suitable home in Edmonton with owners willing to rent to a couple with three pets.
“Oh what a mess that was,” Perron said. “I was with two dogs, one cat and my girlfriend in a hotel room for a week and a half. It’s tough to get the dogs some exercise. They don’t know where they are, so every time someone walks in the hallway, they’re barking.
“After a couple days there, they kind of settled down and got used to it. But the first couple days, were, well, different.”
The NHL lifestyle has its perks to be sure, but there are pockets of stress around every corner when you’ve been traded. It was especially true for Perron, whose first NHL trade sent him to an unfamiliar city to join unfamiliar teammates, none of whom he could lean on for help during the summer.
It also left him with the unenviable task of having to move twice in about two months.
Perron was traded to Edmonton on July 10. He received the news while meeting with members of the French media in Montreal, which is about 90 minutes from his hometown of Sherbrooke, where he spends his offseasons. The phone call from Blues GM Doug Armstrong wasn’t a total shock, as he had been warned a couple weeks prior that this was a possibility.
When Perron’s phone rang in front of the French-speaking media, he knew right away what was about to happen.
“I got up and told them, ‘I think I’m traded here.’ They thought I was kidding,” Perron said. “I came back 10 minutes later and they were like, ‘So what happened?’ I said I was traded. They thought I was joking the whole time. I had to leave the room after that because I had to go home because I had a bunch of interviews to do. It was a weird way to learn about it for sure.”
The 25-year-old Perron was a Canadian kid going home to play with a young, exciting Oilers team on the rise, and he got word of his new situation almost two months before the start of training camp. It wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to an NHL player, but it provided Perron with his first experience dealing with all the little things that come with being traded.
Going from St. Louis to Edmonton wasn’t Perron’s first move of the summer – with his lease ending at the home he was renting in St. Louis, he boxed his belongings and moved into a new nearby residence at the beginning of July. After three years at the same house, he wanted to be closer to where most of his Blues teammates lived. Perron had grown weary of making 20-minute drives out of his way to get dinner with his friends, and this new place would remedy that inconvenience.
It was right around this time that Perron was told to expect to hear his name in trade rumors. With the salary cap coming down and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo about to get a massive new contract, Armstrong had some tough decisions to make. The draft was taking place in New Jersey on June 30, and if a deal was to be made involving Perron, that likely would be when it would happen.
“It was pretty stressful,” Perron said. “I was in the old house and I’d get a text message here or there. I was just getting ready to move to a new house also in St. Louis, so it was a really weird situation.”
The draft came and went with Perron still a member of the Blues. Feeling a bit more comfortable and with all of his belongings in his new place in St. Louis, he returned home to Sherbrooke to let the relaxing portion of his offseason begin. With every rental agreement Perron signs, he adds a stipulation that if he’s traded, he’s not on the hook for the entire lease.
Less than two weeks later, the out clause came in handy.
“I told them about the situation that something might happen and I left all my stuff in boxes all packed up,” Perron said. “I told myself if I’m not traded that I’ll come back in August and do everything I’d normally do anyways.
“So I went back home, and two weeks later it happened.”
Everyone in the NHL seemingly knows everyone. Trade one player to a new team, and there’s a pretty good chance that player is friends or a former teammate on a lower level with someone on that club. Having a buddy on a new team can somewhat ease the transition to a new city.
For Perron, that wasn’t the case at all.
His only connection with anyone on the Oilers was Sam Gagner. They played together in the 2007 Super Series, an eight-game under-20 competition between Canada and Russia.
That was it.
So while Perron was excited about coming to a team loaded with gifted offensive talent, he had no one that could help him out during the summer with finding a new place.
Two weeks after the trade, Perron arrived in Edmonton to check out Rexall Place and meet with team officials. He could have taken time to find and rent a place then, but he didn’t want to wind up in the same situation he had in St. Louis, living far from teammates. There also wasn’t a good market for renting a place at that time. Tracking down all of his new teammates, who are scattered to the wind in mid-July, to ask all of them where they lived just wasn’t realistic.
“I got to Edmonton a week or two after the trade, just to meet with the team, see the rink, do a bunch of stuff that I needed to do and start thinking about finding a place when I realized I don’t know where to live here,” Perron said. “It’s pretty much impossible to know. That’s why I decided to come back here two weeks before training camp to get to know the guys in a more relaxed situation, having fun, doing scrimmages, training together, and I knew I would have more time to find a place. “
Moving is generally a nightmare for everyone, and Perron’s move had plenty of stress. One of the benefits, however, was that all of his stuff was already boxed in his new place in St. Louis, which meant he could stay in Sherbooke while movers handled everything.
“Everything was in boxes and the movers made it really nice for me because it was such an easy move because it was all in boxes,” said Perron, whose second move was covered by the Oilers, standard practice in the NHL. “I didn’t have to go down to St. Louis. They went in there with the owner of the house, they let them in, and they moved all the stuff out. And when I got to Edmonton 2-3 weeks ago now, I showed up at the airport, got my furniture and all that stuff to clear customs.”
But with a 2,000-mile trip that requires a border crossing, some things were lost along the way. And with the stress of a move and adjusting to new surroundings, there’s nothing anyone wants more at the end of the day than to unwind with an adult beverage, but that just wasn’t going to happen for Perron in Edmonton.
“The only thing is there were a few things the movers lost along the way, so I don’t know what happens with that,” Perron said. “There’s insurance and all that, but when you lose personal belongings, it’s not fun to open up the boxes and go, ‘Oh, I thought I had this here’ and I don’t have it.
“There were a few things, but I had a nice case of wine from Napa Valley that’s my favorite wine that’s not on the trip somehow, so I’ll have to buy another one maybe. I don’t drink too often, but I like to have a glass of wine every now and then. There’s a few other things. It wasn’t that bad. It’s just little stuff that you expect to have and you don’t have. I don’t know if someone took it or they lost it along the way, but that’s the situation.”
The move hasn’t been all bad for Perron. It took some time to get hot water at the new house — “I took a couple of cold showers the first couple days in the house” — but at least the dogs and cat were out of a hotel. He still lacks some of the creature comforts he had in St. Louis – he’s having a pool table installed before the season gets under way – but he’s as happy with everything in Edmonton as he is with the fringe benefit of direct flights to Montreal.
Going home to see family during those small windows that are available during the season was difficult while living in St. Louis, as any flight to Montreal involved connections. With pets, Perron would make the 15-hour drive home during the summer to avoid the hassle of taking animals on a trip with connecting flights.
“During the holidays, I might have a chance to go home this year,” Perron said. “Even though it’s farther in terms of mileage, there’s actually direct flights, which is pretty cool. In St. Louis, we all know how it is. If you go through New York or Chicago or whatever, you never know what can happen. You might wind up home for just 15 hours during the holidays so there’s no point to come back. Now being in Edmonton, I might be able to fly back with a direct flight.”
Now Perron is nestled into a home he moved into Thursday and looking forward to a season in which he’ll get to play with the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with an eye toward the Oilers’ first postseason berth since 2006.
“Everything is unpacked. I’m ready to settle down here for a while,” Perron said. “I’m two streets from Hall and Eberle. Same with Nugent-Hopkins and (Justin) Schultz. I think there’s like 12-15 guys in the same area. I have a nice view of downtown Edmonton.
“The feeling I have with the group and the way that things are going, I think it’s really going to be a nice opportunity for me and my career and more, winning and all that stuff. We have to have the feeling that we can win every night and I feel like the guys in there can do it.”