Now 25, Jacob Trouba and Brady Skjei are sharing the ice at Madison Square Garden as members of the New York Rangers. But just 10 years ago, they were teen roommates training for a chance in the big league.
“I was originally thrown under the bus the first day that I met him,” jokes Trouba to PEOPLE, explaining: “We were originally roommates in development camp for the American National Team, we were probably 15, and I overslept, and Brady left me sleeping when he went to the game.”
Notes Skjei, “He was already on the team, so I was just trying to crack the roster.”
But their connection went beyond that tryout camp. The then-teens lived in the same subdivision in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so spent a lot of time carpooling.
“I think just that Ann Arbor program in general, I think you spend two years with the same guys every day, so you get to know everyone pretty well and with Troubs being in the neighborhood that I was in,” says Skjei.
Skjei joined the Rangers in the 2015 to 2016 season, while Trouba was with the Winnipeg Jets until last year. Though they “went our different ways for a little bit,” Skjei tells PEOPLE, “Now we both respect each other’s opinions and we can kind of say whatever we want to each other so it’s definitely nice that way.”
And they stayed in touch — and even visited each other during the off-season.
Trouba says Skjei “was one of the first people that I called when I got traded.”
“I think the first thing originally for me was that New York is such a huge place, figuring out where to live and how everything kind of works, he was the one who really helped me through that,” he explains of getting Skjei’s New York City wisdom. “So I ended up getting a place close to him, I drive to the rink with him every day. Just back to the comfort thing again, just having someone you know welcome you in and kind of get to know everyone else through them is much better than coming in cold.”
Playing in front of those N.Y.C. crowds has been special for the longtime friends.
Says Skjei, “I think just playing for the Rangers in general, just how much history there is in this program, you know obviously Madison Square Garden is a special place for hockey and all sorts of entertainment so to be able to play there 41 games a year it’s pretty special and we definitely don’t take it for granted.”