For professional hockey players, having to uproot your life and move with little notice is a constant reality, but this fact didn’t fully hit home for Matt Stajan until Jan. 31, 2010.
“I had bought a condo in Toronto when I first started playing there and lived in it for a couple years,’’ said the Mississauga-born centre, who spent six seasons in a Maple Leafs uniform before joining the Calgary Flames for the final eight-and-a-half years of his NHL career.
“Toronto’s real estate market is crazy, of course. A property alone, just the land, would cost you, even then, over a million bucks. But we’d just gotten to a point where we didn’t want to be downtown anymore.”
So, Stajan and his wife, Katie, went in search of their first house purchase. Eventually, they ended up in the mix for a property that had attracted a handful of other potential buyers, including Stajan’s teammate Niklas Hagman. Hagman was new in town, having recently joined the Leafs after a trade from the Dallas Stars.
“So, we backed out,’’ said Stajan. “I didn’t want to go up against a teammate, even in something of that nature. And, as it turns out, Niklas wound up getting the house.”
The couple resumed their search, and quickly set their sights on a place that was still under construction, providing them with leeway for some personal touches to be included in the finished product.
“As much as we loved that first house, if you really look at the time we spent there, we didn’t get much living out of it.”
“It was located between the practice rink and main rink in the Bloor West area, and it was perfect,’’ said Stajan.
“We went through the rest of the build together, got to pick our finishes and were really excited to start living there. My wife’s really good when it comes to designing, she has such a great eye for paint colours, so that was part of the fun, getting to select things we wanted incorporated into the house. That helped make it feel more like our own right away.”
Unfortunately for the couple, just as they were getting settled, that fateful day arrived.
“Only two months after we’d moved in, we get the news that I’d been traded to Calgary. We had spent Christmas there – new home, everything great – and then … thanks, Burkie,” said Stajan, referencing then-GM of the Leafs Brian Burke.
Stajan would hold onto the Toronto home as a base for awhile, spending his offseasons there as the family’s attachment to his new professional home started to deepen.
“After a couple years, we decided to live in Calgary year-round, make this our home, so we sold the one in Toronto and bought here,’’ he said. “As much as we loved that first house, if you really look at the time we spent there, we didn’t get much living out of it. Probably a solid, oh, eight months, including summers.
“In this business, you take the leap and buy a house or build a house and chances are that pretty quickly…” Well, you get the idea.
“I guess you could say we’re further proof of that,” he said.