18 Dec 2011. Littleton, Colorado. Gabriel Landeskog meets with young skaters at Edge Hockey Arena. (S. Gauthier, C. Bradley)
For all those of you who have stood in line, waiting patiently for Colorado Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog to sign an article for you and giving money for that autograph, the Foothills Hockey Association thanks you. Showing that he is mature beyond his nineteen years, Gabriel chose to donate all the money that he has earned thus far through meet and greets. Not only that, but he got CCM, his on-ice hockey apparel provider, to match his $2,500 cash donation. Gabriel presented FHA with a giant $2,500 cheque and $2,500 worth of youth hockey apparel. I was lucky enough to be invited to see the cheque ceremony and to sit down to talk with him about it afterward.
I went to the event on Sunday, and luckily, I also brought Cheryl to capture the event on film. Once there, my contact informed us that there was no photographer at the event and asked us to take a number of images. Cheryl gladly stepped up to the challenge. We watched while Gabe met with a young Swedish child who came in to practice with a Canadian youth team, and we smiled at how thrilled Landeskog was when that family gave him some chocolate from Sweden. We witnessed him sign the giant cheque. Then we went down on the ice, literally for Cheryl (she was quickly reminded by one of the twelve-year-old hockey players that boots with heels aren't appropriate footwear at an ice rink). After the ceremonial puck drop, Gabe left the ice and signed autographs for all those who wanted it, staying as long as he needed to get to all of them. Then it was time for what Cheryl and I had waited: we got to sit in a room and pick Gabe's brain with some not-so-hard hitting questions. Many laughs were had. He was able to put us at ease within mere moments of meeting him. What follows is the first part of the transcript of the interview.
MHH: So why this charity?
Gabriel: Yeah, the Foothills, I think, I'm obviously new to the Denver area, but Foothills is an organization that cares a lot about family and it's .. it's about having fun and about taking care of everyone and, I mean, for young kids it's about playing hockey and it's about doing what you love. Yeah, that's what this organization gives them the opportunity to do. I thought "Why not help them? Why not give them some money and some equipment to get them going even more.".
MHH: Have you and Brophey talked about Kitchener at all?
Gabriel: Yeah, a little bit, he's been here the last week and a half. Or whatever it's been, but yeah he's a good guy. We skated in Kitchener actually this summer. At a summer camp, so it's fun. It's awesome that he could come out, and get called up now. I'm excited for him, he's a great player and great guy.
MHH: What's the biggest difference between Sweden, Canada - the OHL- and now you're here, what's the biggest difference between all three?
Gabriel: Oh, I mean, it's tough to compare, I mean it's the OHL vs the NHL vs the Swedish Elite League. But I mean, the NHL is the best league in the world. You're playing against so many good players, night in and night out. It's a challenge. It's a lot of fun. Last night we played against Ovechkin, which has been a dream come true for me. It's, I mean, even though I'm playing for the Avalanche , and playing in the NHL, I'm still a little kid inside, you know. Still fulfilling my dreams every day. So, it's a lot of fun. I mean, hockey-wise it is the best level you can play in and I'm very happy.
MHH: What's been your favorite team to play against?
Gabriel: Ummm, Detroit. Detroit has been a lot fun to play against. Played them twice and, I mean especially playing against them the first night, the first game of the season at home. It was Peter Forsberg night, and playing against Lidstrom and Kronwall and Zetterberg and Fanzen and all those Swedish players. It's a pretty cool thing. I mean, you grow up and you watch all those guys and here you are playing against them. It was pretty neat experience, especially playing my first game against those guys. It was something I'll remember for awhile, for sure.
MHH: Did Forsberg ever sign your name correctly on the hat?
Gabriel: I didn't. I didn't get one of those. He was so busy with all the stuff he had going on. But I'll make sure to get one of those.
MHH: What was more impressive for you: when you got drafted and received a call from Peter Forsberg or the Forsberg retirement night?
Gabriel: Ooohh, I don't know. It's tough to compare. I mean, when he called me it was.. it was pretty surreal, to be honest. I mean, what do you say to that guy? I've been looking up to him for so long and he's been such an inspiration for me, and obviously one of the best players in the world. But comparing that to his night? It's pretty tough to compare those two.The ceremony was awesome and to play my first NHL game. That was special.