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For Tavares, family keeps him in the right place

by Mike G. Morreale
John Tavares wants to experience it all.

He's enjoyed the roar of the crowd in every hockey game he's been a part of, the road trips and even the pressure that has come with possibly becoming the first pick of the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal on June 26.

"John wants to experience it all," John's mother, Barbara Tavares, told "But I told him, 'John, you can't.' But I'm thinking it's good that he thinks that way because John wants to experience those one or two extra things that maybe someone going to University doesn't."

Don't worry, mom -- he will.

During John Tavares' interviews at the Scouting Combine last month, he was asked his greatest fear. It was a question he not only considered out of left field, but difficult to answer.

"I told them my greatest fear was not fulfilling the things I wanted in life," Tavares said. "I want to be successful, eventually have a family and then raise children. I want to get that joy out of life."

It's pretty amazing Tavares has been able to hold it together during his draft year despite the myriad of media requests leading up to the big day. But it's all nothing new, really.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the way my parents raised me, but also having to deal with this since I was 14 helps," Tavares said. "I saw it coming and realized my life was going to be a lot like this so I've been working at it. I want to be humble, a good teammate and trusting. I'm not trying to be someone else or trying to treat anybody different. I just want to enjoy the game because it's something I'm very passionate about."

The 6-foot, 195-pound forward has been dealing with news reporters and television cameras since breaking into the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals after petitioning to gain junior eligibility as an underage player in 2005. The league followed suit by introducing an "exceptional player" clause, allowing Tavares to be drafted one year sooner -- at age 14 -- than he would otherwise have been eligible.

"He's always had the pressure to deal with, even when they made the exception rule for him in the OHL," Barbara Tavares said. "I remember his saying to me, 'Mom, do you think that could be me (gaining exceptional player status),' and I said, 'Geez, John, that could be you,' and that's where he was. So he didn't even realize that it could be about him, but he was certainly hoping for it. I'm just glad I've always been there for him because people forget he's still just a kid."

A kid with a definite plan, for sure. When John Tavares dissects today's game, he sees players capable of multi-tasking on the ice are better off than those specializing in one phase of the game.

"I'll always try to add things to my game from different guys, but I know I want to be an overall complete player who can play in all situations -- not only score goals and create offense but win faceoffs, those puck battles and be strong on the penalty kill," he said. "Mike Richards provides all those things, as does (Sidney) Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk."

"I think a lot of it has to do with the way my parents raised me, but also having to deal with this since I was 14 helps. I saw it coming and realized my life was going to be a lot like this so I've been working at it." -- John Tavares
But what exactly does Tavares feel he could bring to whichever NHL team drafts him?

"My best threat is my ability to score or create offensive chances," he said, "but I also want to be counted on to do the things that don't show on the scoreboard."

Things instilled in him during his four seasons in the OHL.

"The OHL taught me how to be a good hockey player off the ice by staying in shape and eating well and getting into all those good training habits," Tavares said. "Learning at a young age is very important for a lot of guys and it's been good for me to get into the best shape I can. Obviously practicing every day and playing 2-3 times a week is close to the pro lifestyle, so learning those off-ice habits helps you push yourself each day. There are times when you're tired or fatigued, but you learn how to push yourself and make yourself better every day."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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