Rem Pitlick’s embarrassing rookie moment came on his very first full day as an NHL player.
The Plymouth native had signed his contract on a Wednesday night two weeks ago and flown to Nashville the next afternoon, spending that evening at the Predators’ game completing his medical tests until he finally made it back to his hotel at midnight. That Friday morning before the team flew to Winnipeg for another game, Pitlick was to join a small group for a morning skate.
“I didn’t really think anything of it. Coach just said, ‘Just make sure you’re on the ice by 9:30,’ ” Pitlick said. “So I slept in a little bit because I was exhausted, and I got to the rink at about like 8:50. And the guys who were there were like, ‘Rem, what the heck are you doing? We get here two hours before. You can’t show up that late.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, sorry.’
“I just feel like a rookie all the time because you don’t, like, know all the routines.”
To be fair, it has been a lot to absorb in a short amount of time. Pitlick went from being the Gophers’ No. 1 center and leading scorer to an NHL debutant almost within a week when he played his only game so far against the Wild on March 25 in front of a hometown crowd.
Some words Pitlick used to describe his life the past two weeks: crazy, scrambling, chaotic and unbelievable. He fielded more than 200 messages after the Predators announced his signing March 22, and he didn’t have the time to respond to them all until this past Sunday, which was also his first free day to do laundry and unpack his clothes.
But Pitlick has done his best to remain pliable in an abnormal situation, as not many college players have the opportunity to play with their NHL team right away instead of a minor league affiliate, especially at such a pivotal time with playoffs approaching. Nashville even made sure to find Pitlick a hotel room with a kitchenette so he could try to keep up with his usual cooking habits.
Not that he’s had much time for that. A typical day has morning skate or practice around 11 a.m., which Pitlick now knows to show up for two hours early for breakfast and a workout. After that its meetings or extra training. And while he doesn’t have class or homework to fill up his spare time anymore, he’s instead working on getting to know his new teammates.
Pitlick and fellow new collegiate signing Dante Fabbro of Boston University live in the same hotel and have gone to veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis’ place for dinner. Pitlick also has hung out at Ryan Johansen’s “insane” house, as he termed it.
Pitlick said he was at first unsure how the locker room would accept a player making the big jump from college to pros, but everyone’s been very nice and helpful. Even if most of them make him feel a bit young.
“You walk into a locker room where guys have families, have kids. It’s different,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, are we hanging out after practice?’ Like, they’re going home to their families, taking care of their kids.”
But there have been some fun NHL experiences so far, like on the road earlier this week.
“We went to a five-star restaurant the other night that was the Chophouse in Buffalo,” Pitlick said. “Yeah, it was solid, to say the least. It was pretty good food. So that was fun. I had never been to a restaurant like that. I don’t really go out to nice places. If I’m going out to eat, I’m going to Chipotle. But that was nice, and it was cool to hang out with the guys.”
Pitlick will benefit from the hotel maid service for the foreseeable future until he heads home to Minnesota for the summer. But living out of a suitcase for possibly a couple of months doesn’t faze him when he thinks of how ready he’ll be to start next season knowing firsthand how this team operates.
“It’s only been, what has it been? Like, a week? Two weeks? It’s felt like a lot longer,” Pitlick said. “It just seems like so many little things I have to do to get acclimated and get settled that way.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can right now.”