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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    bought my first house, son!!!

    Network of Support: the Kadri family

    “Our family is huge,” Sam says. “Last year, we probably had a steady group of 200 that watched Naz on a nightly basis. But now, because of his success, everybody’s become his cousin. You know what I’m saying? So we’re kind of getting cousins out of the woodwork.”

    Not that Sam discriminates. The blue-collar worker, whose family came to Canada from Lebanon when he was only four years old, would never think to turn anyone away. He is happy to share in his son’s successes, regardless of whether you are a blood relation or just a fan.

    But lately, even Sam admits, the attention is getting to be a bit much.

    More people are calling the house. More people are showing up at the automotive repair shop Sam owns in London. More people are asking for this and that.

    The family finally had to get their home telephone number unlisted. And in the days leading up to the start of training camp today, the Leafs went one step further by making the gregarious young prospect off-limits.

    “Naz understands that it comes with the territory,” Sam says. “But I think right now it’s getting to the point where he’s generating a little too much attention, and it’s probably taking attention away from the team or even from himself. Maybe the organization feels it will be a distraction, because it is a little overwhelming to be honest with you.

    “It’s a huge concern. My thing is, he’s getting so much exposure that sometimes I feel that it’s taking away from his teammates, because in hockey you want to bond together as friends. And when you’re always getting that much attention, it takes away from the other guys.

    “That’s the only thing that concerns me. I’m not concerned with anything else. I know you guys have a job to do and people are interested in him. And he’s going to oblige as much as he can. But only to a point.”

    The Leafs have every right to be protective of Nazem Kadri.

    The 19-year-old has the potential to become a top scorer in the NHL. Some have called him the franchise’s most promising drafted forward since Wendel Clark. As such, expectations could not be any bigger, especially since the Leafs have missed the playoffs the last five seasons. And since the Leafs did not have a first-round draft pick this year, nor do they have one in 2011, attention remains on Kadri, the 2009 top pick.

    So the team is obviously being cautious.

    Last year, when Kadri skated in his first NHL exhibition game, his linemates were fourth-line enforcers Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill. The message to the opposition was clear: keep away from the youngster.

    This year, the team has extended the protective bubble to Kadri’s off-ice activities.

    “Your first-round pick’s always under the microscope,” said Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who made Kadri unavailable at this week’s rookie tournament in London. “This comes from us. We’re trying to help the kid a little bit.

    “This goes back to [former Leafs defenceman] Carlo Colaiacovo. A guy’s a first-round pick and suddenly his name’s in the paper everyday, his name’s on the TV every day, marketing people have his face up in an elevator. There’s so much pressure on the young guy that I don’t know how he can succeed. The bar’s set so high that he better turn into Wayne Gretzky or he’s a failure.”

    The pressure to perform can be a lot for young players to handle. Especially for those in Canadian markets, who were born and raised in their team’s city. Edmonton native Mike Comrie found that out after being a highly touted Oilers draft pick in 1999.

    “When I first signed here, I didn’t know how challenging it would be,” Comrie said in a National Post interview a day after his trade demands were met in 2003. “I’m a private person. Sometimes, your private moments, sometimes you don’t have them like you would wish for … it’s not like I don’t want to sign an autograph. I was a fan here, too. Some people deal with it better than others. For me, I found it challenging.”

    Kadri might not have as much difficulty as Comrie. The outspoken teenager, whose name loosely translates into “leader,” seems to enjoy the attention. And he has spent his entire junior career playing for the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights, teams that are in his backyard and whose games are sold-out on most nights.

    “I think that helped, without a doubt,” Sam says. “They’re the biggest sports teams here, right? So you start out as a celebrity here and getting the media here and dealing with all that. I think it definitely helped the situation, that’s for sure.”

    Still, Sam understands that Toronto is another step into the spotlight. There will be more fans wanting his son’s autograph. There will be more reporters wanting to ask questions. And there will be more pressures put on the young man’s shoulders.

    “I think when you’re in such a media-driven market, where everybody wants to know everything about you … I think there will be a time where he’ll probably get sick of it and want a little bit more privacy,” Sam says.

    For now, Nazem cannot seem to get enough of the media’s interest.

    At a recent event to promote the EA Sports video game NHL11, The Score television network gave Kadri a microphone and asked him to conduct interviews with Taylor Hall and other top prospects. Kadri loved every second of it. The next day, he was back in front of the cameras at an Upper Deck trading card event telling reporters that he was looking forward to buying a Ferrari.

    No wonder the Leafs decided to pull the plug. They were worried that the media — having already focused on his Muslim heritage, his off-season training and his chances of making the Leafs — was running out of things to say about Kadri. And they were concerned that the youngster might start believing the hype.

    “Well, he better handle the media here or [GM Brian Burke’s] going to come crashing down on him,” Eakins says. “Brian adamant about our guys [being spokesmen], whether it’s community appearances, media, all those things. That’s part of your obligation as a player. Am I impressed by him? Yeah, I guess. That’s great. But I think any of these guys would do the same. You have to remember that for guys coming out of junior, it’s kind of exciting talking to the media.”

    Sam and mother Sue, of course, do not worry about their son. They know he was raised right. When he was younger, Nazem joined his dad at the repair shop to learn how to change a car’s oil. “It wasn’t for Naz,” says Sam, but at least the kid got to see how hard dad worked so that Kadri could play hockey.

    The Leafs are also trying to raise Kadri right.

    Sure, the team is counting on him to fill one of the vacant positions at centre. But he has to first earn a spot on the roster. If he does not show he is up for the role, Burke has warned that Kadri could spend time developing in the minors.

    “The biggest thing with Nazem is he needs to grow up a little bit, get a little more experience,” Eakins says. “And instead of a being a kid, being a little more of a man.”

    Back at the John Labatt Centre, Kadri and the other Leafs prospects skate onto the ice wearing the new jerseys that the NHL team will wear this season. Sam, a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan who changed allegiances once his son was drafted, cannot contain his excitement.

    “Those are beauties,” he says, smiling. “It’s pretty surreal, to be honest with you.”

    Just think, he adds, it was not long ago that Sam was driving Kadri to hockey practices. And now, he is about to become an NHLer, complete with the million-dollar pay cheque. Still, they will always be the king and queen of the family.

    When asked what would happen if Kadri came home with an attitude, Sue raises her hand and makes a slapping gesture.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Missing nstojic and his jays minor league updates.

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