-- With the 2009 Entry Draft just a day away, top-ranked North American prospect John Tavares
took time out of his busy schedule for a short Q&A with NHL.com during a Thursday morning news conference at which it was announced that he would be joining the Reebok-CCM Hockey team.
When you started training for this season back in August, you knew this moment would come at some point. Now that we're here, is the draft experience what you thought it would be?
I think so. It's pretty busy. I knew there would be a lot on my plate and a lot of hype about it and expectations. Dealing with a lot of this since I was 14 has given me a lot of practice and helped me mature in a big way. I'm really starting to get the feeling of being here at the draft and that the time is really coming.
I've never been to the draft before. I wanted to make sure it was a new experience for me. I know a lot of guys like to go the year before and get the idea, but I wanted it to be a new experience. Every day is something new for me and it's really been a lot of fun. I'm happy to be here with my family and friends -- they get to be here and be a part of this, people who have been with me my whole life, helping me achieve my goals on and off the ice.
We're 36 hours away from the start of the Draft. What's going through your mind right now?
I think being here with CCM and Reebok, it's been good to keep my mind on enjoying everything and realizing the special privilege and opportunity that I have that most people don't.
Whatever happens, it's going to be a great feeling. I can't wait to get my name called. Right now I don't have too much control over anything. Obviously you're anxious and excited, but you can't worry about it too much. At the end of the day, it's going to work out great for myself and for everybody else in the draft.
Do you have any favorite draft-day memories from watching it on TV?
I remember Sammy Gagner giving the thumbs-up to the camera on his way up. It was special for me to see him. It still feels like yesterday, me and him playing on his backyard rink and growing up and dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League. To see him already going to his third year -- it's amazing how fast time goes by. I remember seeing him get drafted; I knew he would make a great impact right away. Those are the moments … when I see guys I know get drafted and guys I grew up with, it makes it more special.
NHL.com: No one seems to know what the Islanders are planning to do with the top pick. Pretend I'm Isles GM Garth Snow
and tell me why I should take you with the first pick?
I think my ability to rise to the occasion at many levels. I've been dealing with pressure since I was 14 years old and expectations, and knowing how to handle those situations very well. I think my ability to produce offense and my ability to want to be a complete player, to want to be a guy counted on all over the ice and to improve in all areas. I'm a passionate guy about what I do, and I love this game more than anything. I'm very determined and I'm looking for every possible way to get better and improve myself to be the best player I can be and to contribute in a big way. And not only to win one Stanley Cup, but I want to win a few. That's what I think I can contribute to any team.
Are you excited that over 18,000 people are going to pack Nassau Coliseum hoping to hear your name called first?
If it is Long Island, that would be pretty special, to see the reaction from a great fan base and a great city. If I am selected by the New York Islanders
, there wouldn't be a greater honor than to play there and to be part of that community.
So you're a fashion designer now as well as a hockey player?
Not really. You grow up wanting to play in the National Hockey League and be a hockey player and while that definitely involves all the equipment we wear, you don't think about the other side of things. You see now Sidney (Crosby) and Alex (Ovechkin) and the way they promote their lifestyle through their apparel, as well. To have this opportunity to represent the brand and myself like this is a great opportunity and I'm very proud and excited about it.
You're a big Michael Jordan fan, and he's got his clothing line and Jumpman logo. Now you have your clothing line -- where's your JT logo?
"I'm a passionate guy about what I do, and I love this game more than anything. I'm very determined and I'm looking for every possible way to get better and improve myself to be the best player I can be and to contribute in a big way. And not only to win one Stanley Cup, but I want to win a few. That's what I think I can contribute to any team."
-- John Tavares
We already have something that I have on my stick and my skates. This is stuff you work towards and it's cool. Any time little kids see me skate or check out my sticks they always see it. They're always impressed with it.
With people looking up to me now, I've really learned that I can make a big difference on people's lives and change lives forever. I remember doing an autograph signing with a kid who wrote a speech on me. I still remember writing speeches in school on my uncle. He read it to me and I gave him a jersey. You think about it, and he'll remember that for the rest of his life. Things like that, just the impact I make on people's lives now, it's tremendous. And still being a kid, it's still all sinking in.
Just to have all this going on with CCM and other opportunities I have, I'm in a very unique position and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com