Of all the places Mike Commodore has played hockey, no city has welcomed him quite like Hamilton.
"Somebody just picked my pocket yesterday," Commodore laughed when the veteran NHL defenceman was asked about his first impressions of the city. "And I'd literally just gotten that iPhone 5 five days ago."
But one trip to Jackson Square and some sticky fingers later, the Bulldogs' newest acquisition got a taste of the seedy side of the city.
'If I took the year off and I wasn't playing, I think my NHL hockey career would've been over. I didn't want to take that risk.' —Mike Commodore
"I tore my room apart looking for that thing," Commodore said. "Live and learn — but I was really pissed off for about two hours."
Hamilton is the latest in a long list of moves for the journeyman defenseman, who is currently with the Bulldogs on a professional tryout contract. He started last season with the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL and was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline.
Then the lockout hit. He gave himself until American Thanksgiving to be back at the rink with an NHL team — and clearly that hasn't happened.
"If I took the year off and I wasn't playing, I think my NHL hockey career would've been over," Commodore said. "I didn't want to take that risk."
He started weighing his options, and thought he'd be heading overseas. "But then Hamilton called — they wanted an older guy around here," Commodore said.
The 33-year-old former Stanley Cup winner brings experience, toughness and grit to a relatively inexperienced Bulldogs blue line.
Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre says Commodore will take some pressure off on the team's back end when he makes his debut on Friday against the Abbotsford Heat.
"Mike will bring size and experience — and he's won a cup," Lefebvre said. "He knows what it takes."
He weathered the last lockout too, as a prospect in Calgary after their 2004 Stanley Cup run.
"But this time is a little different," he said. "I'm not a prospect anymore."
That suits him just fine though. Commodore says he's all for slipping into a mentorship role with his new team, much like veteran players did for him when he started out with the New Jersey Devils.
"I had some of the older guys in the NHL looking after me and showing me some things," Commodore said. "They were great to me, and I'd like to do the same."
13 teams in 13 years
The defenseman is no stranger to playing in new cities. A self-proclaimed "gypsy," right now Commodore is calling the downtown Sheraton Hotel his home.
"And honestly, all I've seen of Hamilton so far is the Sheraton and the rink."
Though the vagabond life has treated him well, he feels like it's time to start putting down some roots.
"I just turned 33 a couple of weeks ago," Commodore said. "As much as I love having my stuff in storage all over North America and moving around, shipping my car and being a total gypsy … it would be nice to try and stay put for a bit."
"I'm single with no kids still — 13 teams in 13 years will do that to you."
But he doesn't think he's finished with the NHL just yet.
"I don't think I'm done," Commodore said.
"I'd like to take another run or two at the cup."