For a team that has shown a penchant for trading top
prospects away for proven NHL talent, life in the Toronto Maple Leafs
developmental system has its ups and downs. For Carlo Colaiacovo, rated by Hockey’s
top prospect, the roller coaster has been even more of wild ride of emotions
than for the average player.
Grabbed by the Leafs in the first round, 17th
overall in 2001, Colaiacovo has been in the spotlight since his days with the
Erie Otters of the OHL. As a member
of two silver medal winning World Junior teams for
the soon to be 22-year-old defenseman from
during his career.
In four brief appearances with the NHL Leafs over two
seasons, Colaiacovo has recorded a pair of assists, one coming in each
season. Since turning pro and
Maple Leafs in 2003-04, the 6’1 188lb rearguard has amassed an impressive
point total. In 83 games with the
Baby Buds, Colaiacovo has totaled 44 points, not bad for a blueliner
who’s had significant injury problems getting in the way of his
The most recent mishap to strike Colaiacovo occurred on
December 7th in a game against
breaking a bone in his head and sidelining him for the past five weeks.
Hockey’s Future had the opportunity to speak with
Carlo during the second intermission of
January 12th. Despite his frustration with not being in the line-up,
Colaiacovo was eager to talk about a number of
subjects ranging from his injury, the organization and where he fits in the big
HF: Tell me
about the injury and how it happened?
CC: I blocked a
shot in the ear and suffered a broken mastoid bone in the back of my head, some
temporary ear damage, I was deaf for two weeks and it’s been a slow
healing process but hopefully it won’t keep me out too much longer.
HF: What is
your expected return been set at?
don’t know. I’ve got a
good week of skating under my belt now but it hasn’t felt too great,
I’ve been off for a month.
Everyone was hoping for this weekend, including myself, but after these
few days of practice it hasn’t been feeling the way I had hoped it
would. I think with another few
more days of hard skating and practice with the team it will get me back ready
HF: What was
the original prognosis?
CC: They told me
at the time that it would be a month at least. With this kind of injury, they
didn’t really know what kind of damage there would be at first because
there was a lot of swelling, a lot of blood and they couldn’t really
define what was really wrong with it.
After the healing process started they had a better idea of how long it
would be but it’s really about how I feel and I haven’t been
feeling as great on the ice as I expected I would be.
flying been a problem for you?
CC: At first it
was. At the time of the injury it
kept me in
for a week and my first flight was pretty painful. Coming here to
of it and I didn’t experience much pain. Right now it’s all about getting
back into game shape and felling 100 percent out there.
doesn’t look like there’ll be a NHL season but hypothetically, if
there was, would you prefer to stay and develop in the AHL for the rest of this
year or move right up to Toronto if there was room, obviously taking money out
of the equation?
CC: My main goal
is to play in the NHL and if there was a season then that’s what I want
to work towards. For the time being
trying to get better every day, playing a lot, the team is doing well and right
now there are a bunch of us just concentrating on whom we are playing for and
playing as a team and trying to win every hockey game.
HF: Are you
physically bigger and stronger than you were last year?
Absolutely. This summer I
really focused on working my hardest, getting strong, getting my conditioning
higher than it’s ever been.
Last year I learned that I was going to play a lot, l tend to log 25-30
minutes a game and I need to be at my best every night so that’s what I
prepared for. Hopefully when I get
back in the line-up I won’t be too far behind and I can step right
in. I was told I needed to get
stronger and play stronger and those are really the basic things that I
have concentrated on this year; being stronger on the puck, be tougher in my
own end, play more defensively.
HF: Has the
added mass enabled you to do those things better?
CC: Yeah, and the
other thing that helps is the great bunch of veterans in the room that help us
younger guys be better each day.
HF: Brad Boyes was a buddy of yours from your days in
traded out of the
system last year?
years ago now.
You’re right… time flies.
CC: Yeah, I
was the trade deadline talk last year!
(laughs) Obviously in our junior days when we
were both representing the Toronto Maple Leafs we were really excited about the
future, but it was really tough and a little bit disturbing on both of our
parts when he got traded. But,
it’s the business of the game and nothing that either of us could
control. I hope the best for him
and he does the same for me too.
We’re good friends off the ice as well when we’re back home
and we keep in touch, motivate each other to be better all the time and
hopefully we can continue to our goals with different teams.
That’s the way it goes in this sport and it’s something
you’ll probably have to get used to.
CC: Yeah it is
as you can tell with the NHL’s lockout it is a business. As players we can’t control the
decisions that management makes, we just have to abide by them.
What’s the worst butchering you’ve heard or seen of your
CC: (laughs) It’s pretty funny because growing up, you name it, it
was butchered. I can’t even
think of how many different ways but I think the funniest thing is when they
pronounce it with an ‘A’ on the end when there’s an
‘O’. I don’t know
where they get the ‘A’ from.
It’s something that I laugh about all the time when I hear people
say it but I guess after talking to a lot of people it’s easier to say
once you’ve heard it than when you first read it.
With a name that gives people so much trouble to say, I imagine
you have a lot of different nicknames then.
CC: Coco, Cola,
Collie, Carlos… you name it.
HF: For those
who haven’t seen you live, can you describe your style of play?
really tried to concentrate on my defensive game this year because I’ve
always been known as more of an offensive defenseman but I’ve always know
myself that I need to get better in my own end. I’m a guy who logs a lot of
minutes, plays the power play and is know to be pretty offensive. I don’t really want to critique
myself in any way though, I just want to go out and be the best I can each and
every night to help the team win.
mentioned the trade rumors of yourself last year. Where do you think you fit in with this
organization, one that has shown a willingness to
trade youth because they can afford to buy players off the free agent market?
CC: I think
I’ve survived two trade deadlines only because they want to see me play
here. I’m really happy and
thrilled to still be a part of this organization because there really is no
other place I’d want to play.
I clearly stated it last year that
is where I want to play and so hopefully the (CBA) gets settled one day and I
can make my way up there.
HF: Is there
much communication between
there’s always that communication but not as much this year because of
everything going on. They do what
they have to do to make sure that we’re developing the right way and
getting the things we need to be the best we can be.
HF: What has
the public’s reaction been in
to the news that the team is leaving for
for next year?
CC: As great as
St. John’s has been to the team, I think a lot of players will say that
it’s been pretty disappointing the way things were handled this
year. The team announcing that they
were going to move before this season started I think really ticked off a lot
of fans out there.
pretty disappointing though that the support hasn’t been that great. We, as players, really need that comfort
of playing at home and this year…we’re really hoping that when we
get back there’s going to be that support for us there. It’s something that we
haven’t had so far this season but I think we all agree that the city
still supports us but we hope our attendance will grow.
HF: Has there
been a significant drop off in attendance?
CC: You can tell
on some nights. We’re
averaging 1500-2000 people, whereas last year it was 3000-3500. Like I said, it’s disappointing
because this year we have a winning team and we’re fighting for the
division and we want to do our best as players to put a winning product on the
ice there in the last season to make it a memorable one.
AHL numbers list average attendance in
a very minor increase from the 2003-04 average of 4799 people. It should also be noted that these
figures are based on ticket sales and not dropcount
in Mile One Stadium.)
HF: Are you
looking ahead to next year at all and the thought of playing closer to home and
family or is that too far ahead still?
CC: Personally, yes! I’m really looking forward
to next year but that’s next year and let’s finish this year off
first and make it a memorable one for the fans in St. John’s after the 13
great years that they’ve supported the Leafs organization and we’ll
let next year worry about itself.
I assume that the Leafs were your team as a kid?
Absolutely. Growing up in a family that watched Leafs hockey on a Saturday
night and hoped each year that they’d win the Stanley Cup. There’s a lot of people dying in
such a long time and I’m one of those people so I feel even more special
thinking that I might get the chance to celebrate that one day.
HF: What do
you and the guys do to keep entertained on the road, especially on a long road
trip like you’re on right now?
CC: This year
it’s been crazy with the schedule we’ve had. We’re in the middle of a 26-day
trip. In a way it’s good
because you spend more time with the guys and share team unity and stuff. We play cards, go out, anywhere we are
we try to find something to do for entertainment. The toughest part is that when
you’re gone for a long time you’re living out of a hotel, living
out of your suitcase, eating out every day, that’s the tough part about
it but we try to make the best of a worst part of every situation.
friends from junior do you still keep in contact with no matter where
they’re playing now?
CC: A lot of my
Erie buddies because that’s where I spent four years of my life. Chris Campoli
(NYI), Brandon Cullen (ECHL), Mike McKeown. That Erie Otter Memorial Cup team run we
had was pretty special and so we still keep in touch. Even with the Team Canada days, you keep
in touch with those guys too. That
team camaraderie, guys learn to always stick together.
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