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Putting In The Work

Monday, 14.06.2004 / 9:22 AM / Features
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Putting In The Work

by Matthew Iaboni

After an impressive training camp in 2002 that saw him earn a stay and play his first two NHL games, Carlo Colaiacovo found himself playing major minutes with the St. John's Maple Leafs in 2003-04 with one goal in mind - permanent employment with the Toronto Maple Leafs Matthew Iaboni reported in LEAFS GAMEDAY.

Highly skilled Carlo Colaiacovo also has the right attitude when it comes to achieving a full-time position on the blueline for the Maple Leafs. He's content honing his skills now with plenty of action for the St. John's Maple Leafs because he's as proud to be part of the Leafs today as he was the day he was drafted in 2001.

Colaiacovo will get a long look by Leafs' brass in training camp this year. (Getty Images)

"To be part of this organization is something unbelievable," Colaiacovo says. "To represent the logo on your chest is great. It's high class. It's probably the most known hockey team around the world. Being part of the St. John's Maple Leafs means you're still part of the family and, in the future is representing the Toronto Maple Leafs is where I want to be. That's my hometown so I've got to be proud of it."

Last year, the young blueliner started the season on the big club's roster, but after playing two NHL games he was sent back to play with the OHL's Erie Otters. Before he went back to junior, he registered one assist in his NHL debut against Phoenix. The confidence he gained from the experience of playing in the big league helped him the rest of the 2002-03 season.

He registered 35 points in 35 games with Erie, but the highlight of the season was when he and several other Leafs prospects led Canada to silver at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax. He had a standout tournament as he was tied for the scoring lead with 10 points and was named to the tournament All-Star team.

Living in a new city can be tough, but that hasn't bothered Colaiacovo in St. John's.

"It's been great," he says. "I never knew what to expect when I first went there but everything's been very first class. The coaches are great. We've got a great facility. The people are really nice in Newfoundland in supporting the team and, around the city, they know who you are. It's a great little town and I'm really enjoying myself.

"They (Leafs management) basically said they wanted me to start here, learn this game, get better at things at this level. They were really impressed with me. They just want me to get better each and every day and be there when the time comes."

Colaiacovo says he's striving to evolve in all areas.

"Just developing and getting better as a player and as a person each and every day," he says of his approach.

"I'm fortunate enough to be playing a lot. Like I said, we've got great coaches and great teammates. That really helps me when I go to the rink every day. You know, you're looking forward to it and having fun. We've got a great bunch of guys and I just want to get better each and every day."

Colaiacovo was forced to watch training camp in Sweden last fall.
(Getty Images)

His first goal as a pro was a game-winner in overtime for St. John's then he played a strong game before family and friends as the Baby Leafs came back to defeat the Roadrunners, 5-4, in Toronto on November 2.

Growing up in a tightly-knit family, Colaiacovo stays in touch, although it didn't start off that way.

"It was a little difficult initially because when I was first hit with the news, I had an hour to pack up and get out of town," he says. "I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my family and stuff like that so there's been a lot of contact over the phone.

"I was excited to see all of them (in Toronto). With the long offseason I had last summer, I got to see them every day and that was good. I was really looking forward to seeing them and I'm pretty sure they were looking forward to seeing me play my first game in Toronto, so it was really exciting."

Being a 21-year-old living in a new city definitely has its advantages. Colaiacovo likes St. John's not only for the great hockey atmosphere, but also for the other things that it offers off the ice.

"The nickname for Newfoundland is 'The Rock,'" Colaiacovo says. "That's basically what it is. St. John's is a city on a rock. But it's been good. It's got a great nightlife. In Erie, during my last four years, it was a little bit different because it was a little bigger than St. John's and I was used to being there. But as time goes on, I'm getting adjusted to it and experiencing it a little more."

Colaiacovo is smart enough to realize that hockey comes first. For the Leafs - St. John's now and, hopefully, Toronto soon - and Colaiacovo that all bodes well for the future.

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