SUN Hockey Pool

Hobnobbing with the stars

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Despite being entrenched in Los Angeles for more than five NHL seasons, Mike Cammalleri just couldn't get into the rock-star life.

He couldn't even pull off the rock-star look.

"The Red Wing guys like (Chris) Chelios love Kid Rock. He'd come to the games when they would play. He's that whole persona, the rock-star persona," said Cammalleri, a Calgary Flames winger who mixed with celebrities from time to time as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

"(Rock's) got an Adidas track suit on with no shirt and the chains, and he's hanging out at the hockey rink. He's a rock star, man. He feels so comfortable.

"If I was wearing that, I'd feel like such a chauch. He makes it roll. He makes it look great."

Shirt and tie is more Cammalleri's style.

He had plenty of opportunities to wear them for team-related functions mixing professional athletes with celebrities.

A quick search of the Internet produces a picture of him posing with a couple of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and another of him with Carmen Electra.

Through mutual friends, he crossed paths with socialite Paris Hilton ("I've never been friends with her. I've seen her out. I have some mutual friends.")

He's talked hockey with movie producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Jason Reitman.

Wild Hollywood parties? If he frequented them, he's not telling.

"I didn't mix it up at all. Pretty low-key," said Cammalleri, giving his comical take on what those mixers are really like.

"A lot of people standing around, looking good. A lot of really good-looking people standing around," he said with a grin. "The entertainment industry, it's the land of the beautiful -- that's why I didn't fit in there."

Rubbing shoulders with celebrities was friend and former teammate Sean Avery's thing.

For Cammalleri, the biggest perk playing hockey in Hollywood was the fine dining.

"I like food, I like dinners a lot, so I'd do a lot of dinners in Beverly Hills or Hollywood with some of my friends there," he said.

Diving deep into pop culture was never on the menu.

Cammalleri was happy in his South Bay home, where most of the players reside, away from the Los Angeles scene.

"Where we live, it's not immediately that Hollywood thing. You can dabble in and out of that scene if you want to," he said.

"Great restaurants to experience there. That was my way of dabbling."

The restaurants were a little safer than the parties.

That photo of Cammalleri with the swimsuit models serves as a reminder?

"A guy got hepatitis that night and we all had to go get shots. The food was contaminated," Cammalleri recalled with a laugh. "That was scary."

The closest he ever came to being truly star-struck had nothing to do with Hollywood. It was meeting a golf hero through Jeremy Roenick, when the Phoenix Coyotes came to town.

"The biggest celebrity for me was Freddie Couples," said Cammalleri, adding the golfer came to Coyotes games in L.A. to see buddies Roenick and Wayne Gretzky. "I know it's not the paparazzi-type celebrity ... but I've been a Freddie Couples fan forever."

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Coming to Calgary from Los Angeles in a draft-day trade, Cammalleri is already experiencing a little culture shock.

For a second time.

Growing up in Southern Ontario, the 26-year-old was taken aback by life in Los Angeles after being drafted in the second round by the Kings in 2001.

"It's different. It's kind of hard to describe. It's just like a beautiful place to live, almost picturesque," said Cammalleri, who's South Bay home was once featured on MTV Canada's Cribs. "You know those shows like Laguna Beach, or the O.C.? That's what it's like.

"You wake up every day, it's beautiful. It's very nice and relaxing. A nice place to live as far as lifestyle goes."

Hockey was a different story.

It's no hotbed, with two NBA franchises stealing the sporting spotlight and the celebrities' attention.

"The hockey life is definitely a lot different. The obvious: There's no real intensity or pressure coming from the public or the media," said Cammalleri, who is about to experience the total opposite as a member of the Flames.

"There is a good fan base, don't get me wrong, it's just that it's such a big place that you don't feel it directly. That's what makes it different."

Hockey games had their share of stars in the stands, but it was nothing compared to what the Lakers drew.

"If we had more success, there would have been a lot more involvement that way," said Cammalleri, who didn't even get to interact with the Lakers stars much ("I'd see them getting out of their cars, but that's about it,") despite sharing a building. "L.A.'s a town where when the Lakers are winning championships, you look at the first two rows, it's all A-list celebrities. When the Kings were winning -- when they went to the finals with Gretzky -- everybody was sitting on the glass. It becomes the buzz of the city."

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Even though he didn't make a habit out of hanging with celebs, Cammalleri got to know a few of them through Avery, who back then dated Dion Phaneuf's current actress girlfriend, and former Calgarian, Elisha Cuthbert.

"Sean is a friend of mine, so we hung out," said Cammalleri. "We had a lot of mutual friends. I got to know a lot of people he knew in L.A.

"There's kind of a weird phenomenon between pro athletes and actors or producers. Actors kind of want to be pro athletes, and pro athletes kind of want to be celebrities.

"It's this weird relationship. They would come down to watch the games and hang out. You get to know their personalities a little bit."

What he learned meeting all those different personalities was not to judge anyone based on what he has heard.

"Everything they do is so well-publicized. There's so many things said about them. You learn to not trust everything you read that might be said about certain people.

"A lot of things can be misperceived."


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