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Monarchs' first-year players adjust to being on their own

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 08. 2017 12:05AM
Manchester Monarchs rookie Spencer Watson starts dinner after getting home to his Bedford apartment on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Big Monarchs weekend
Games at SNHU Arena, Manchester

vs. Norfolk Admirals (Independent), 7 p.m.

Saturday: vs. Reading Royals (Philadelphia), 6 p.m.

Sunday: vs. Norfolk Admirals, 3 p.m.

When the Manchester Monarchs are preparing for a string of road games, the upcoming opponents are not the only thing on Matt Schmalz’s mind.

The rookie forward needs to make sure he has some clean dress or golf shirts to wear on the trip and that none of the food in his fridge will go bad while he’s away.

The 21-year-old forward from Dunnville, Ontario, does not want to have to repeat what he did before the Monarchs’ road trip to visit the Utah Grizzlies Nov. 22-25.

“When we went out to Utah, that week before Utah I just didn’t really plan it,” Schmalz said. “I bought a ton of groceries. Well, half the stuff that was going to go bad I had to eat so I stuffed myself.”

Schmalz and fellow Monarchs rookies Sam Kurker, Matt Marcinew and Spencer Watson are still adjusting to the professional lifestyle.

While playing at both Boston University and Northeastern University in college, Kurker sometimes struggled to carve out 15 minutes of down time for himself. As a pro, the 23-year-old has the opposite problem.

Kurker, a forward from Reading, Mass., has had to find ways to stay busy. The work day for the Monarchs players typically lasts three to four hours and is over by noon or 12:30 p.m.

After practice Tuesday, Kurker did a light workout and stretch and had a protein shake before heading to the apartment complex in Bedford where all the Monarchs players live during the season. Once home, he made lunch — leftover rotisserie chicken with rice and broccoli — and debated going to the movies later that night to see “Daddy’s Home 2” with Schmalz and other teammates.

When you get bored, Kurker said, just start roaming the halls. The players sometimes arrange movie or video game nights at one of the apartments.

“Actually, a lot of hockey players are gamers and no one really knows that,” Schmalz said. “And they always think it’s like a nerdy thing but you throw a little (“Call of Duty”) on and you’ll get four or five guys in one room playing CoD for an hour or two hours.”

Schmalz prefers Xbox to PlayStation and plays games like “Just Cause” or “PGA Tour” in his downtime. Schmalz also likes to cook and has been experimenting with different types of chicken recipes lately because realistically, he said, that’s what he will eat on most game days.

“Everyone thinks it’s a pro lifestyle — you just go out and eat at all these fancy restaurants. It doesn’t work like that,” Schmalz said. “You’re an adult. You’ve got to make your own food. For me with the downtime, it’s a lot of cooking prep. And then I’ll get tired and I’ll just throw on a movie and kind of relax and stuff like that.”

Marcinew, who played collegiately at Denver, is not a gamer but his roommate, Joel Lowry, is. Marcinew, 24, prefers to read or log extra hours in the gym. In addition to gaming, Lowry cooks dinner for himself and Marcinew each night.

“He’s dynamite. He’s a good cook,” Marcinew said. “Joel does every meal and if I try to help, he doesn’t let me help.”

Coming from junior hockey, Schmalz and Watson are more familiar with the abundance of free time pros have than Kurker and Marcinew. The college guys have more trouble sitting still, Schmalz said.

“I’ve done this since I was 16,” Watson said. “I practice, go home and then have not a lot else to do so there’s a lot of free time on my hands.”

Watson, who rooms with Kurker, was assigned to the Monarchs from the Ontario Reign, the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate, on Nov. 22. The London, Ontario, resident is still familiarizing himself with his new team and surroundings.

After Wednesday’s practice, Watson, 21, went grocery shopping at Market Basket while wearing his team-issued Los Angeles Kings sweatshirt. When he’s at his apartment, Watson watches a lot of television and movies. He has almost finished the TV shows “Prison Break” and “Bates Motel” and is currently doing a rewatch of the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy.”

One way Kurker and teammate Eric Schurhamer have decided to use their time away from the rink is by volunteering at an animal shelter in Manchester. The two have gone through the orientation process and are hoping to begin volunteering within the next few weeks.

Kurker also travels home to Reading to visit his family and girlfriend sometimes during the week. Like in college, Kurker still brings home a bag of laundry to do when he goes home even though his apartment building has washers and dryers.

“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t like to sit still and I’m not a big video game guy,” Kurker said. “Whether it’s reading or researching or volunteering, I think you’ve just got to find some outlets to stay busy.”

While getting used to pro life takes time, Kurker said everyone on the team is always trying to help each other out.

“The best advice I’ve gotten is to just try and attack every day,” Kurker said. “Sometimes there’s some tough days but you have to realize your work day is about three hours long so if you dial it in for those three hours and give 100 percent for those three hours, it’s all they’re asking of you.”

If Kurker ever needs additional advice or just someone to watch a movie with, all he has to do is walk down the hall and knock on a few doors.

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