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MHSM exclusive: Q&A with Gabriel Landeskog

After a sensational rookie year which wound up with him nabbing the Calder Trophy award for the NHL’s rookie of the year, Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog sat down with Julie Browman to discuss his offseason plans, his new role as captain and to reflect on his sensational rookie campaign. The Q & A is as follows:

What do you do in the offseason?

It was busy. After the season and the world championship, I took some time off to unwind. I took two or three weeks to do nothing and just lay on the couch and hang out with friends. After that, it was just getting back to training and the basics. Of course I went to Las Vegas for the Calder Trophy award presentation and that was a little bit crazy. It was a great experience and a lot of fun. Then I came back to Denver for a few days. After that I went home, and went on a couple of trips with friends. Other than that, just training and enjoying life.

Did you go on any trips?

Yeah, I went to Barcelona for the Playersʼ Association meetings and I went to Nice, France with a few friends. I had a really good time at both places and I was able to see a little more of Europe.

Do you speak French or Spanish?

I know a couple of phrases in Spanish, but other than that I don’t know anything. I used to take Spanish for a year in school, but I didn’t catch on too well.

Speaking of languages, your English is very good. You really canʼt even hear a Swedish accent. What’s the secret?

I realized pretty early that if I wanted to play in the National Hockey League and I wanted to live over in the states, that it would be so much easier if I knew the language. I picked it up pretty quickly in school. I told myself to pay attention to grammar and pay attention to pronunciation and all of that kind of stuff. I also watched tv, listened to music and radio, and watched movies. It’s all in English, so you learn and you pick it up that way. Also going to high school in Canada was a huge help.

You even have the catch phrases and some slang down. How did you learn that?

It was a lot about my first year in Kitchener, Ontario. All of the guys were making fun of me and making fun of my accent. I just kind of said to myself that I didn’t want to be made fun of, so I got rid of the accent pretty quickly.

Any favorite TV programs you watched to learn English?

I love watching “Friends.” I’m a big fan of that show. Sometimes I would shut off the subtitles, and then sometimes I would learn how to spell by watching the subtitles in English.

Who is your favorite “Friends” character?

Chandler. His sarcasm in unbelievable. I love it. All of them are good in their own way.

You mentioned your trip to Las Vegas when you won the Calder Trophy. Las Vegas is it’s own thing isn’t it?

Its like it’s its own country. I had been there twice before. Once on a family vacation, and once when we were playing there for a preseason game. This time I was able to bring most of my family, except for my mom, and it was pretty cool.

You couldn’t even gamble could you?

Nope. I am just nineteen, so I couldn’t even go into the casinos  really. I didn’t see any shows either. I was pretty busy. I was either going to dinner with my family or doing things here and there. It’s probably a good thing. I probably would have lost a lot of money!

You are very humble and you have a great head on your shoulders. Where does that come from? Is it because of your parents’ influence, or because you came over to Canada so young?

The way I was raised has had a big influence on me. Just treat other people the way you want to be treated. That’s one of the things my parents instilled in me pretty early. I also moved over when I was sixteen, so I had to mature pretty quickly. I was hanging out and spending a lot of time with older people and older teammates. That kind of forces you to grow up as well.

In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you would win the Calder Trophy and be named the captain of the Avalanche within the year?

No, to be honest with you, I didn’t think that at all. I started thinking about winning the Calder Trophy maybe in January or February after I won Rookie of the Month. Before that, I was just trying to make the team, trying to make an impact, and trying to fit into the league.  Obviously being in Las Vegas and winning that trophy was a huge honor. It was the first step for me in making a name for myself. Being named captain was also a huge honor. I’m so excited just to be in  that group, and to be named captain was extremely exciting. Putting it all in perspective now is kind of hard, but maybe down the road after a couple years, or even after my career is over, I will be able to sit down and say that was pretty special.

What’s the game plan to being the captain at nineteen years old? You will be a captain of a lot of veteran players. Have you thought about what kind of captain you want to be?

First of all I am just going to be myself. That’s why they named me the captain. I’m not planning on changing how I approach the game, or how I play the game. Earning the respect of my teammates to be named captain means more to me than coming from anyone else. That’s something that I take to heart for sure and I’m proud of.

Some captains are very vocal, and some choose to let their play on the ice do the talking for them. What’s your style going to be?

It’s tough. When you are young, you don’t want to be the guy that talks the most, and you don’t want to be the guy that takes the most space in the dressing room. When it comes down to it, I’m going to have to have a feel for the dressing room. I’m going to have to know when it’s time to say something, and also going to feel when it’s time to take a backseat and just roll with things and go out there and do my job. I think it’s one of those things where you learn a long the way. We have a lot of leaders in here, so I don’t feel like it’s  necessary to be the most vocal guy, but if something needs to be said I will say it.

What are your thoughts on the dreaded “sophomore slump”? Do you even think about that?

I think a lot of it is mental. Obviously I have heard about the “sophomore jinx.” I think it is what you make of it, and what kind of    mindset you go into the season with. My mindset is that I want to get better, I want to help this team win hockey games, and I want to go to the playoffs. As long as you focus in on those things and take it one game at a time. I’m sure I will hit a rough patch here and there, just like I did my first year, but I think in the long run it will be pretty good.

You are mature beyond your years, but are there instances where you still feel like you are just nineteen years old and still very young?

I think when I pick up the pucks after practice, when Eric Johnson calls me rookie, and little things here and there. I always know I am going to be the youngest guy on the team, at least for now. I think it’s mental. Age is just a number. That’s what the girls say, and that’s what I say! At the same time, it’s true. For me, it’s just about being myself. I always have time to be nineteen and to be myself when I get home. When you are at the rink, you have to be professional. There is always time where I get to be myself and lay on the couch, and watch movies for nineteen year olds.

Denver and Colorado is now your home, at least part of the year. Do you feel like you are part of the community?

I have only been here for a year, and I love it already. The weather is awesome and the people are great. The mountains are just thirty minutes away and it’s awesome. It’s a great sports city, and a great  sports community. It has everything. Football, baseball, basketball, and soccer and college sports. You get to be anonymous as well. I get to be myself with I go to the mall, but at the same time when people do approach me, they are extremely respectful, which is awesome. The state of Colorado had a tough summer with the fires and the Aurora shooting, so it’s really important for everyone to come together when it comes to the sports teams. We have the ability to make a change and to make an impact on people’s lives. I think that’s very important is well for us to cherish that, and make the most of that.

Did the news of the fires and Aurora shooting hit you harder because this is your community?

Absolutely. People were calling and texting me asking if I heard about the shooting and the fires. It hits you pretty hard when things like that happen. If doesn’t matter where in the world it happens, it’s always go to hit you hard, but when it happens in your home, it’s a tough pill to swallow. I didn’t really know how to take it at first. I’m going to do some charity work and do some stuff to help out the victims. I looking forward to getting back into things and hopefully bring the Avs back to the playoffs and hopefully help people get back into their homes.

Last season, the Avs were one of the teams battling late for a playoff spot. Did that experience give you incentive for this upcoming season?

Absolutely. We all got the taste of how tough it is to miss the playoffs. We don’t ever want to feel that again. I think we’ll use it as motivation all throughout the season, and especially when it comes down to the end of the season. We want to be on the right side of that playoff race. We added some great pieces with John Mitchell and PA Parenteau. We also have a great young core here. Even though we’re young, we gained some valuable experience last season and we are looking forward to growing as a group.

How do you prepare for a season when thereʼs the possibility of a lockout?

I’m not used to this, I have never been through something like this before. I mean, at this time of the year, you are getting ready for the season and now it’s kind of up in the air. We’re just trying to prepare  the best way possible and hope for the best. We’re hoping to get a deal done for the future, but it has to be fair for both sides.

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