One of the greatest parts of my "day job" is that I get to find out what makes NHL players tick.
After three seasons of conducting interviews prior to every Toronto Maple Leaf home-game for LeafsTV, the roster of those interviewed is long and includes some guys who, beforehand, I would have been hard-pressed to pick out of a lineup.
A good example of that is emerging Boston Rookie sensation Blake Wheeler, who was named MVP of the YoungStars Game Saturday. This strapping lad is already an icon at the college level. An historic one-handed overtime winner while flying through the air for Minnesota in the 2007 WCHA Final Five tournament made ESPN's Top Ten, quite the feat for a college highlite.
Prior to our sit-down last week, I was expecting to meet a guy with a bit of a swagger but was pleasantly surprised when the opposite was true. Wheeler is the picture of professional while also being open and honest with his answers and there wasn't one cliche in the mix.
Here's a guy who had great success at every level leading to the bigs then scores his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
Just 28 days after that Wheeler hit the score sheet with his first NHL hat trick, against the Leafs no less.
This was all just a few short months ago.
Truly a young star, Wheeler is wise far beyond his 22 years and embodies what we all hope our boys become if/when they get a taste of the spotlight.
Once you get to know these guys you find yourself rooting for them to succeed and that made an otherwise blah event comprised of dangle-and-score actually fun.
It's guys like Blake Wheeler who give us reason to watch something that falls short of "must see tv;" we just need to know the stories behind the stats.
-- Jody Vance is a sportscaster and personality with Leafs TV. Her column appears Mondays in 24 hours.