Met John Tavares today for the first time and in the aftermath of another Sidney Crosby sighting, was struck again by how youngand precocious all these up-and-coming stars nowadays. Tavares is 17. Chronologically, that makes him five months older than my own son, who is playing as a second-year midget, but for hockey purposes, it makes them the same age, in terms of the NHL entry draft. Keeping in mind what interests (and motivates) my boy - his driver's education, the Internet, video games, old/new music, hanging around with friends, pondering university options - I wondered what Tavares did when he wasn't playing hockey for the Oshawa Generals.
"I've still got to get my driver's ed," he answered. "I'm like a normal kid. I like to watch TV, play video games. I don't like the Internet as much as I use to. I like to hang out with my friends."
And why doesn't he like the Internet as much? Nothing to do with Jiri Tlusty and the scrutiny that up-and-coming hockey players find themselves under, does it?
According to Tavares, it is less complicated than that.
"I really don't even have time for that anymore."
Most of the teenagers I know are impatient to take the next step in their lives. In Tavares' case, he probably won't be able to play in the NHL until 2009 - there is no appetite there to change the eligibility rules for the entry draft and if that doesn't happen and they don't introduce their own version of the exceptional player clause, then Tavares has two more years of junior in his future, this year and next, before he can consider turning pro.
On the matter of showing patience, Tavares answered this way: "You're coming here to hopefully represent your country and win a gold medal. That's the ultimate goal. It's a dream for me. It's why I'm here - to win a gold medal - but it's always nice to come here and do things, but …
"Definitely, you have to be patient as a young player to let your career unfold - and that's what I'm trying to do."