Schenn follows in mentor's footsteps

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

The Mentor will not let The Kid pay.

Supper time is quickly approaching and The Mentor, Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber, has just met up with The Kid, Maple Leafs blue-liner Luke Schenn, for a friendly bite.

Surely the rookie will foot the bill. Respect your elders, right?

"Nah, I told Luke I'd pay for him pumping my tires," Weber said.

Translation: Picking up the tab is Weber's way of thanking Schenn for praising him to a Toronto columnist earlier in the day.

Not that Schenn really needed to talk up the virtues of Weber.

That's because Weber, 23, already might be the best defenceman you have never seen perform. Not much anyway.

Most of the Predator storylines involve off-ice issues like bankruptcy court or Jim Balsillie. On the ice, well, they don't really get a lot of TV time up here.

Too bad. Weber is a budding star who deserves serious Norris Trophy consideration and should be, it says here, a member of the Canadian Olympic team.

Thanks to a blistering slap shot that arguably is harder than that of the Calgary Flames' Dion Phaneuf, Weber enters tonight's game against Schenn's Leafs with 30 points, fifth among NHL defencemen. He is a respectable plus-5, a key stat for a guy on a sub-.500 team. And he can deliver bone-crushing checks that make an opponent's teeth rattle.

"I haven't seen any defenceman who has a greater impact on his team than Weber has on ours, and that includes Nick Lidstrom in Detroit," Preds coach Barry Trotz told reporters last month.

Not to mention the impact he has had on Schenn over the years.

When Schenn was a teenager playing in Saskatoon, Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton, knowing the young defenceman one day would be a force for his team, invited him to spend a few days with the WHL squad to get a taste of junior hockey life.

When Schenn arrived at his billets' home in Kelowna, he was star struck. It was, after all, the same place Weber was staying.

"He was sleeping, and I was too shy to meet him," Schenn recalled yesterday. "They had just come off a 10-hour bus trip from Prince George. Still, it was unbelievable. He had just won gold with the Canadian juniors, and he and Phaneuf were the big guys in (the WHL)."

When Weber woke up, he introduced himself to Schenn.

"I thought it was the coolest thing ever," Schenn said. "I was only 15 and he was 19, but he was so down to earth."

Weber called a couple of teammates and, together, took Schenn out on the town.

"We went to the food court at the mall," Schenn said.

Those wild kids.

"I just remember not believing how big this shy kid was at 15," Weber said.

From that day forward, The Mentor and The Kid remained in touch. They are in contact weekly, usually by text message.

Schenn has the Centre Ice package and watches Weber whenever he can.

"I know it's early to say, but if he keeps going like this, (the Norris) is not out of reach," Schenn said.

Weber doesn't like talking about the Norris much. Or the upcoming Olympics, although he says it would be "a dream come true."

But he does admit that he'll wallpaper The Kid if he gets the chance tonight.

"I'm not surprised with the success Luke has had up here," Weber said. "He's already ahead of me. He was drafted in the first round. He was in the NHL at 18. Impressive.

"But (tonight) our friendship gets put aside. And I have no doubt if he gets the opportunity he'll hit me too."


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