It was 3 a.m. in Regina and Nazem Kadri
was still awake, pacing about his hotel room.
Television didn’t help
His roommate, Patrice Cormier had no such trouble. As a returnee, Cormier had a second tour of duty on the Canadian World Junior Tournament all but sewn up.
“It was a pretty sleepless night,” said Kadri, the Leafs seventh overall draft choice in 2009. “I tried talking to my friends on the cell. I tried sleeping but even then I was up and down.”
This is how it works when you want to play for Canada. The best from across the nation are put together and asked to do what they have not done before. Big defencemen have to move the puck faster because what might play in Kelowna won’t work against Russia.
A goalie has to control every rebound because he’s not facing a 17-year-old from Red Deer who hopes to find his offence in a year or two. Danglers needn’t try beating four players in a single rush, not with the best in the world working both sides of the puck.
You do the things you do best to get an invite to training camp and then you change when you get there. There must be something to it. When Canada begins play Boxing Day against Latvia they will put a string of five consecutive championships on the line.
When you don’t make the team, word comes via the phone in the club’s hotel. There would no phone call for Cormier. If the phone rang, Kadri might as well reach for his suitcase.
When you make the club, they tell you to your face.
Kadri got the phone call last year. He watched from the hotel in Erie, Pennsylvania as a former teammate with the Kitchener Rangers, Matt Halischuk, scored the tournament winner in the gold medal game.
How is that for bitter-sweet? Kadri, limited by a broken jaw incurred a few weeks before the World Junior camp, watching a friend claim what he himself wanted so badly.
“We were almost late for our game in Erie,” Kadri said. “I remember the rush I felt watching Hally score.”
This time, associate coach Dave Cameron found a bleary-eyed Nazem Kadri
on the other side of the hotel door. As soon as Kadri heard the knock, he knew he was all right.
The tournament, to be convened in Regina and Red Deer during the holidays, will provide empirical proof of Kadri’s progression. After a slow start, he has begun to amass gaudy numbers. The 18-year-old centreman has scored 20 goals and added 18 assists in 28 games.
A visit from Leafs GM Brian Burke a few weeks ago helped Kadri keep his game in perspective,
“Burkie was down a few weeks ago and we talked after the game. He told me just to relax, keep it simple and I would find my game.”
The kid hopes to use the same advice to make another team next October.
“I will be more mature and I will be putting on more weight on in the off-season,” said Kadri.
“I want to make the big club.”