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Flames rookies enjoying first taste of NHL life

Martin Pospisil Connor Zary Calgary Flames Martin Pospisil Connor Zary - Getty Images

On the ice, Calgary Flames rookie Martin Pospisil, 24, leads the team in hits and penalty minutes. 

Off the ice, he leads the team in a flashier department.

“I think he’s got the most expensive Rolex on the team,” veteran blueliner MacKenzie Weegar said with a grin.

The Flames have several rookies who are experiencing the highs of NHL life this season, including Pospisil, Connor Zary, Matthew Coronato, and goalie Dustin Wolf. They’re staying at posh hotels, riding on private planes, and cashing NHL paycheques for the first time in their careers.

One of Pospisil’s first big purchases as an NHLer was a Rolex while the team was in Florida on a road trip in March.

“I was with [goalie Dan Vladar] all day and we were shopping,” he said. “At the end of the day, we walked by a Rolex store. I was like, ‘Hey Vladdy, you want to stop and see some watches?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, sure. We can go, but there’s no point. They’re not going to sell you anything.’”

Pospisil, who is making $775,000 this season and signed a two-year, $2 million extension in February, insisted. Soon after he walked out with a brand new Rolex, the only one the store had in stock. He wouldn’t say how much it set him back. 

“It was a lot,” said Pospisil. 

He also paid for a tropical vacation for his family during the All-Star break.

"I gave some money to my family," he said. "They've been helping me throughout my whole career."

Zary, 21, and Wolf, 22, have a little less bling than their teammate. Their NHL deals are for over $800,000 each this season. Both started the season in the AHL, where they earned about 10 per cent of what they're now making in the NHL.

“I spent a little extra money at Christmas for gifts for people, but other than that, I don’t think I’ve really spent too much money on anything,” Zary said. “Maybe a pair of pants from Lululemon or something like that, but nothing crazy at all.”

Wolf has been shuttled between the AHL and NHL all season and hasn’t made any impulse purchases yet. He has an idea of what he wants though.

“I’d like to eventually find a place [in Calgary],” he said. “I haven’t done anything quite like [Pospisil]. I’ve got one watch from back in junior that I received. I try to keep it pretty simple.”

Flames veterans like Weegar and Nazem Kadri are reminded of their own younger days when they see the excitement of their rookie teammates.

“That was fun,” Kadri said, smiling at the memories of his first NHL paydays. Kadri was drafted seventh overall in 2009 and his first NHL contract called for a $90,000 signing bonus in each of the three seasons. 

“I don’t think I splurged a whole lot. I was pretty modest back then. I think I bought some electronics, like a new laptop.”

Kadri split time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies from the 2010-11 through 2012-13 seasons. He was in awe of how much bigger his NHL cheques were.

“I got sent up and down a couple of times, so then I’d compare the pay,” he said, laughing. “So, I was pretty motivated to stay in the show.”

Weegar and Kadri both invested in real estate during their rookie seasons.

“I ended up buying a house back home [in Ottawa] and then I bought a car,” Weegar said. His three-year entry-level contract in 2014 was for a total of $2.4 million.

“I bought a condo pretty early on and ended up making some money on it and flipped it for a nice price,” Kadri said. “I remember it was tough for me to fork out that kind of cash, but it was worth it in the end.”

Of course, those initial paydays are about much more than the money. 

The players mentioned how seeing a big paycheque for the first time was surreal and put other things into perspective. They thought of their hockey journeys and the sacrifices their families made to get them to the league.

The feeling of being a full-time NHLer still hasn't quite sunk in for Pospisil, a 2018 fourth-round pick who battled concussion issues that threatened to derail his hockey career last season. 

"I haven't time yet to stop and realize what's going on," he said of realizing his dream. "I'm just playing hockey and trying to enjoy it…Since I was a kid, it was my dream to play in the NHL, but it wasn’t my [motivation] to make money.”

“I thought it was fake at the time,” Weegar said, of his first cheque. “I’m like, ‘How do they even deposit that much money?’ It was cool. I wanted to buy a car. I wanted to give some back to the family. You don’t really know what to do with it when you see it. You just think you can buy anything.”

Wolf also spoke about his parents and how challenging it was to grow up in northern California as an aspiring goalie. He will surely be with the Flames full-time next season and already has plans to thank them.  

“My parents sacrificed a lot throughout my life,” Wolf said. “We moved several times throughout the state of California…I’d definitely love to repay them at some point in my career.”