Living in Leafs' spotlight

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

In his first week at an NHL training camp, Alex Pietrangelo probably did six or seven media interviews.

Luke Schenn did at least that many on his first day.

Such is the disparity of being a first-round draft pick in hockey-mad Toronto compared to a smaller U.S. market, such as St. Louis.

Back in June, Pietrangelo, a defenceman with the Niagara IceDogs, was selected fourth overall by the Blues. Minutes later, the Maple Leafs moved up two spots by making a deal with the New York Islanders, allowing Cliff Fletcher and co. to pluck Schenn with the No. 5 selection.

In terms of publicity and notoriety, this really has become a tale of two cities.

As long as Schenn sticks in the hockey fishbowl that is Toronto, the debate as to whether he'll remain with the big club is a daily topic.

He already is recognized on the street.

Pietrangelo, on the other hand, creates no such buzz when he saunters past the Gateway Arch in downtown St. Louis, where the Blues pretty much are considered the No. 3 team in town behind the baseball Cardinals and the football Rams.

"It's different, all right," Mississauga native Brad Boyes, now with the Blues, said last night.

"There certainly are different pressures on a kid when he's a high pick in Toronto as compared to a lot of other markets like (St. Louis)."

Boyes is familiar with the blinding spotlight that shines on a top pick attending his first Maple Leafs camp, having lived through that very experience eight years ago.

Back in 2000, Boyes arrived at Leafs camp in Kitchener carrying the high expectations of an organization and fanbase on his shoulders. Having been taken 24th overall by the Leafs, all eyes were on the skinny 18-year-old kid.

Boyes admits he learned a lot from that experience. In fact, when asked by Sun Media what advice he would give Schenn in order to survive his first training camp as a Leaf, Boyes offered the following:

1. Don't be wide-eyed at all the attention.

"You have to keep playing your game because that's all it is," Boyes said. "You must relax on the ice, especially in a place like Toronto because fans monitor almost every shift. Don't try to do too much. That's where you get in trouble."

2. Don't believe everything you read, hear on the radio or see on TV.

"Be careful. Some people are going to hype you up because you are in the limelight right away in a place like Toronto.

"You can get too high if you buy into that stuff. On the other hand, there can be negative things said and written about you too. The reality is, not everyone will be on your side. You have to stay level-headed."

3. Make a good first impression.

"If you can get the fans on your side early, it's always good. Hard work goes a long way and makes people more understanding when you make a mistake."

4. In a place like Toronto, be aware of your off-ice responsibilities.

"I remember my first Leaf camp. We were in Kitchener and almost all of us had left when I noticed Tie Domi was the last guy in the building. He was still signing autographs and talking with fans. I learned a lot from him about public relations. His career probably lasted longer because of it."

5. Have fun.

"Guys put too much pressure on themselves in a place like Toronto because of the pressure. You are an 18-year-old kid. Enjoy yourself. If you get through this, it will make you so much stronger as a person and a player."

Boyes never got the chance to play a regular-season game as a Leaf, traded to the San Jose Sharks before he received the opportunity.

After a stint with the Boston Bruins, he enjoyed a breakout season with the Blues in 2007-08, scoring 43 goals.

Of course, after offering up all those tips to Schenn, Boyes watched The Human Eraser dipsy doodle his way to the winning goal, a nifty shootout deke that gave the Leafs a 4-3 victory over the Blues last night in exhibition play. As the puck went across the line, the crowd paid homage to Schenn by chanting "Luuuuuke."

"Nice move," Boyes admitted afterward. "He's learning that the best way to get the fans on your side is to be the hero like that."

Luke Schenn could not get better advice than that.


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