Khabibulin Humbled By Experience

Jim Matheson, Yahoo! Sports
September 13, 2011

Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Nikolai Khabibulin says his incarceration at the Tent City in Arizona for drunk driving earlier this summer was a sobering experience, something he’s very glad is over with as he tries to rebound from last year’s miserable season.

“I’m not going to lie … it wasn’t much fun and I learned my lesson,” said the 38-year-old netminder, who was first charged in February of 2010 while driving to his home in the Phoenix area. “It was pretty hot there and you have boundaries and you have to do certain things. It’s not what people are used to.”

Certainly not hockey players.

Khabibulin was sentenced to 15 days but was allowed to leave on work release from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays. He spent the first 48 hours at the Tent City — an extension of the Maricopa County Jail. There were 24 bunks in his tent, about 15 occupied by a cross-section of people, all under the watchful eye of hardline Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who doesn’t believe in coddling any of his prisoners.

“He’s a unique character. Whatever, he’s doing he believes in it,” said Khabibulin, who was on the ice Tuesday with his teammates for an informal practice at Kinsmen Arena.

With Oilers’ official training camp starting Friday with medicals, Khabibulin seems healthier and wiser after his error in judgment when he got behind the wheel of his Ferrari. “It certainly nice to put this behind me. I didn’t want this dragging into another year. As much as I tried not to think about it last season, it was there in the back of my mind. If the season had been better (10-32-4, 3.40 average, .890 save percentage) it would have been easier but we weren’t winning and it (upcoming incarceration) was always there. I’m more relaxed now,” he said.

Also humbled. “There were a lot of people I talked to. Contractors, some are CEOs of companies, some regular people and we all talked about the things we did. We all said if we could get this back, we’d never do it. It’s tough to deal with, especially when you’re in the media. My daughter just turned 19 and she reads the Internet. She wasn’t very happy. It’s not like she was giving me a hard time … she would say something funny to me, but I know she was crying the first few days I was there. That was hard on me. I’m pretty sure with what I’ve done, she’ll learn from this too.”

The desert was hot. “One day it was 108 degrees in the shade without AC,” said the goalie. “We could get water from a vending machine (area) … that was the only place that was cool. You would try to spend an extra five minutes there.” The food was very bad. “I tried it once and I didn’t want to try it again. The first 48 hours I was there, I lost six or seven pounds. That is just sitting on a bed, laying around.”

Khabibulin behaved himself. “If I did something wrong, they could put you in pink,” said the goalie, who was recognized by a few inmates.

“People wanted to talk. There were no hockey guys but some (prisoners) were from Boston or people who used to watch the Coyotes from when I played there,” said Khabibulin, who sheepishly admitted he signed a few autographs for prisoners. He was also called to the detention office a few times to do the same thing.

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