Toronto Star

Smiling captain clicks with serious superstar

Roommates Lazar, McDavid very different people, but share some common goals


They’re an odd pair, Curtis Lazar and Connor McDavid.

One is always smiling, taking a happy-go-lucky approach to whatever is before him, be it breakfast, what’s on TV or the game of hockey. That’s Lazar.

The other is all business, all about preparatio­n, about being the best he can be at any given moment. Intense. That’s McDavid.

Put them together as roommates — as Hockey Canada has done at the world junior hockey championsh­ip — and you have the makings of a sitcom.

“I try to crack some jokes with him,” said Lazar. “I don’t know if I’m too funny around him because he frowns at me.”

Put them together on the ice, and you have the makings of a winner.

“Curtis always has a smile on his face,” said forward Jake Virtanen. “I know the guys love that.

“He is always smiling and having a good time, whether it’s here at the hotel or on the ice. Connor is pretty serious. When guys try to crack him up, he’s pretty serious. That’s just how he is.”

Thanks to two wins in their first two games — back-to-back, no less — Team Canada decided not to practise on Sunday, and will have Zach Fucale in net Monday against Finland.

The Finns are the defending champions who are winless after two games. It was the Finns who humbled Canada last year, 5-1, in the semifinals, relegating Canada to the bronze-medal game.

“We have a different team, they have a different team,” said Groulx. “We don’t want to look back at last year. We want to play in the now. (Sunday) is a day to get our energy back for the game. It’s all about getting ready for the Finns.”

So the team saved its energy and took it easy at their hotel.

McDavid and Lazar even stayed up late on Saturday night — in their room — following the 4-0 win over Germany. McDavid had a goal and two assists and was named player of the game.

“We talked a little bit, and refreshed and reflected on the game,” said Lazar. “I’m happy for Connor to make an impact the way he did.”

Lazar has turned out to be a brilliant choice as captain. He was on this team last year, and can relate the pressure of the event to the newcomers. He has gone through the draft, and can relate those stories to McDavid and Lawson Crouse, the two on the team yet to be drafted. And he’s on loan from an NHL team, coming from a place the rest want to get to.

But it’s his bubbly personalit­y that sets him apart.

“I have to credit my parents for that. Like me. I’m always a happy-golucky guy. I always try to stay in the moment, and not look too far ahead,” said Lazar.

“I try not to take anything for granted. Just like that it can be taken away. It can change your life.

“These experience­s, playing in the world juniors, playing in the Memorial Cup, it is special to me,” he adds. “It’s what I worked towards all my life. They are my lifetime goals. To achieve it why not smile and enjoy it.”

Lazar comes across as genuine, open, casual. He seems at ease in public, especially with the media.

McDavid is more guarded in media scrums, providing answers that don’t lend themselves headlines. A wise choice perhaps, given the scrutiny he’s under.

“There is so much pressure on him,” Lazar said of McDavid. “You can see what he’s going through, himself and (top American prospect) Jack Eichel. It is a big year for them.”

That’s where having Lazar as captain makes so much sense.

“I take a different approach with every person,” said Lazar. “Some guys a like being talked to. Others just kind of like being left alone. So that is kind of tough for me to manage that especially in a short-term competitio­n.

“I just try to get in there a little bit talk to guys keep them loose. Ultimately, everyone on this club are leaders on their club team,” Lazar adds. “They are profession­als on an everyday basis. They know how to handle themselves. It makes my job pretty easy.”

 ?? GRAHAM HUGHES/THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Team Canada players Connor McDavid, left, and Curtis Lazar chat during a practice session in Montreal on Christmas Eve.
GRAHAM HUGHES/THE CANADIAN PRESS Team Canada players Connor McDavid, left, and Curtis Lazar chat during a practice session in Montreal on Christmas Eve.

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