By early April at the latest, the college hockey season wraps up for all teams. That leaves players with a break of around five months before starting up again.

Such a gap allows players to return home to visit their families. Plus, they can work to fine-tune individual aspects of their games to be better prepared come fall. 

But the summer break also gives the student athletes an opportunity to take up jobs they wouldn’t have time for during the strenuous season. Senior forward Nick Pastujov and his brother, junior forward Michael Pastujov, are two members of the Michigan hockey team who have taken advantage of that.

“They had a summer job and they were painting the houses,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I don’t know, I think that only lasted one summer. I don’t think they properly drew up the estimates very well, because they seemed to be getting a lot of work and I don’t know if they were making much money.”

It was the summer of 2017, right after Nick’s freshman year and before his brother had suited up for the Wolverines. The two of them worked in Michigan for Student Painters. The company hires college students and gives them a chance to learn business management skills by letting them paint houses and handle related business logistics.

The Pastujovs’ youngest brother, Sasha, had already been playing hockey in the state at that time. So, sometimes, the older brothers painted things for Sasha’s teammates. Other times, they painted for some of their own friends.

The majority of their work was exterior, but the duo also painted the inside of Eric Nystrom’s house. Nystrom — a former NHL player and first-round pick — is similar to the brothers in that he, too, spent time with the U.S. National Team Development Program before four years with the Wolverines.

“That was cool spending time with him and painting his house,” Mike said. “It was fun.”

Nick employed other teammates for a few of the jobs. For instance, James Sanchez — who now plays for Arizona State after transferring from Michigan — joined the crew once. Another time, senior defenseman Griffin Luce helped Nick paint two decks in the scorching heat.

“Basically what I remember is that it was probably one of the hottest days of the summer,” Luce said. “And both Nick and I got pretty severely sunburned. I didn’t reapply sunscreen. But it was a fun time. He paid for my lunch. He gave me some benefits for working for him.”

Nick and Luce came across challenges that day. Normally, Nick would power wash a deck before repainting. But on this occasion, the prior paint had a sort of stickiness to it and wasn’t coming off with ease. So, the two had no choice but to roll up their sleeves, get down and scrape the old paint inch by inch under the sun. The struggles didn’t stop there. They also had to carefully tape multiple dowels near the deck’s railings before repainting. In short, it was an eventful day.

When it comes to hockey, there’s likely a dispute as to which of the Pastujov brothers is the better player. But when it comes to painting, there was no competition.

“I was probably quicker,” Nick said. “He got tired pretty fast.”

Added Mike: “Nick definitely takes more precision strokes and he uses a lot more tape than I do.”

A return to painting in the future is unlikely for the Wolverines. Mike mentioned that all the hours spent working outside made for a difficult summer, and Luce is on the same page.

“It was a pretty taxing job I would say for sure,” Luce said. “I don’t know if that’s in the future of my career.”

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