He lives in a room down the hall from Gary and Teri Frederick in their house in Orange, Calif. Their son used to live there, grew up in that room, but now the son is gone, graduated from San Diego State University, and now there is this other kid in the room. This millionaire kid. This millionaire boarder.
"He goes to bed at 9:30, maybe 10 o'clock," Teri says in a can-you-believe-it voice. "The rest of us are still sitting up, watching television....
"He didn't even want his own telephone," she continues. "I suggested it, thought he'd want to make some calls, but he said he didn't need a telephone. He thought it would be a bother....
"He's just the cutest thing," Teri finishes. "The other night, he was in this mad scramble with my daughter for the television clicker. They were running around, looking everywhere. The winner would be in control, you know? The one who found the clicker. It was just great."
The year is 1995, and this is not supposed to happen. The headlines say it is not supposed to happen. MEATHEAD NO. 1 DRAFT CHOICE WRECKS CAR IN 3 A.M. CRASH! MEATHEAD DEMANDS TO BE TRADED! MEATHEAD'S GIRLFRIEND TRIES TO BURN DOWN MEATHEAD'S MANSION! Then, again, headlines are different here. This is Disney country. The teacups swirl in the 40-year-old amusement park down the street, and the prince always finds Snow White, and Mickey and Minnie are a movie couple for the ages, and Paul Kariya lives with a family.
This No. 1-pick rookie left wing of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, with a $6.5 million contract for the next three hockey years, has landed in the home of a pediatrician and his wife and their kids instead of in the nearest Lamborghini showroom. Stop the tabloid presses. Disney has found its G-rated man.
"I've never cooked," Kariya says with unarguable logic in the Duck locker room at the Arrowhead Pond, the 17,174-seat Disney hockey palace. "I don't own any furniture. It's my first year in the National Hockey League, and there are going to be things I have to learn every night. I just decided I didn't have time to go looking for a condominium or a house, to go through all that and then have to learn all of those other things on the ice. Living with a family seemed to be the right thing for me."
He is only 20 years old and looks younger, slender at 175 pounds, smallish at 5'11". But he has arrived on the local hockey scene with all the publicity of, oh, a skating version of The Lion King. The comments about him always contain the phrase "plays like Gretzky." There are immediate disclaimers that include his size and age and the fact that "no one actually could be Wayne Gretzky," but the comparisons always are made.
Kariya is stylish and clever, looking to make the pass first, take the shot second. He sometimes swirls in circles to shake free from opponents. He makes short little passes off the boards to himself to avert body checks. He takes the puck behind the opposition net and waits, as if he is counting the paying customers, waits and waits until he finds someone open. He—does all this sound familiar?—has that sense that he knows where the game is going before everyone else does. He sees what nobody else seems to notice.
"You look at him, and, O.K., he has great wheels and good hands, but those aren't his best assets," Duck general manager Jack Ferreira says. "He has that sixth sense of knowing where everybody is, that great anticipation. There might be some things he'll do that you don't want him to do, but you have to let him go. You never want to control his creativeness."