Bill Comrie now says his move south had nothing to do with his son's problems, but Erker, his old friend, suspects "it was no coincidence."
Comrie lives in a home that Duff bought while still a teenager, in the tony hills north of Hollywood. But the two will be here only a few months, until their new place in a gated community is ready.
Although tastefully furnished (Comrie says he's unsure if anything is from The Brick), it is relatively humble by Beverly Hills standards. The kitchen contains evidence of their professional lives - his daily diet is posted on the fridge (from a bacon cheddar burrito for breakfast to five pigs-in-a-blanket as a nighttime snack) and a script marked "Spiderman" sits on the table, with lines for a character simply called "girl" highlighted in yellow (rumours swirl about who Spidey's love interest will be in the series' next instalment.)
Duff swoops into the room, beaming, and asks for patience while she dries her hair. Afterward, she offers a tour of the main floor. A skylit dining room with a table, 10 chairs and a baby grand piano, a kitchen with a TV streaming feeds from 15 security cameras, and the living room, with its candles and blankets - which retail for $1,125 U.S. and make the place look monogrammed only because they're by Hermès.
Still, Duff claims their life is low-key. "Aside from a few glasses of wine now and then, we're pretty straight-edge," she says, passing an old safe they plan to use as a liquor cabinet of sorts. "The idea was to keep like fancy bottles in it but, oh, they're empty. You see how hard we party."
She is joking, but her husband laments the demise of his "street cred" - "I told her my YouTube videos went from me scoring goals and fighting, to walking down the street, holding hands."
Hockey-and-Hollywood hookups aren't new, nor are they often smooth sailing. Reports have already surfaced of friction between Mike Fisher, a former Comrie teammate in Ottawa, and his wife of less than two months, country star Carrie Underwood. Two years ago, bad boy Sean Avery was suspended and then dropped by the Dallas Stars for trash-talking his old flame, actress Elisha Cuthbert, to her new love Dion Phaneuf, now captain of Toronto's Maple Leafs.
But the Comrie-Duff match predates all that. They first crossed paths in 2007 while on vacation at a lake in Idaho, which is about all they agree on. "I still have a completely different outlook on how we met ...," says Duff, who turns 23 on Sept. 28. "He tells everyone, first of all, that we met on Facebook, which really undoes me. And second of all, he tells everyone that I hit on him first, and that's so not true." At this, Comrie smiles, having earlier admitted he avoids both Facebook and Twitter.
However, they do agree that he resorted to a bit of hot-dogging while kneeboarding on the lake by putting the tow rope between his teeth - Look, Lizzie: no hands. "You were totally showing off for me," she says, laughing.
But she bought it. "I called my mom the next day and said, 'I think I have a crush on somebody.' "
When the two started going out, a little homework was in order: He had to brush up on her career ("I knew who she was, but I didn't know everything she did") and she needed Hockey 101. "I knew I was dating an actor when she started talking about a rink being called a venue and my jersey being an outfit," he says. She also admits to calling practices "rehearsals."
But friend and Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff remembers that "right from the start ... there seemed to be a really strong connection."
And a problem. Duff was about to go on tour (three of her four albums have sold platinum) and one of her first shows was to be in Edmonton, making Comrie worry about what kind of reception she might receive - "I was like, 'Oh, my goodness' "(as close as he comes to swearing).