Fans at Pepsi Center on Wednesday night got to see a valiant, come-from-behind effort that culminated in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
Jarome Iginla scored two goals—three if you think the one waved off should have counted—and Erik Johnson netted a shorthanded marker to seal the win.
What those in attendance didn’t see was a bit of outstanding hospitality, as Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog welcomed the first iteration of Landy’s Friends to the game.
“I’m excited that last night was the first night for Landy’s Friends,” the 23-year-old Swede said of his newest endeavor. “It’s an opportunity for myself to help out kids in different organizations through Kroenke Sports Charities. We have kids and various guests come to home games, and I’m able to put them up in a suite and they all get a Landeskog jersey and get to watch the Avs. The goal is to be able to meet them after the game and sign some autographs and take some pictures.”
In all, 20 special guests—most of them kids—from Shopneck Boys and Girls Club were invited by Landeskog to see Colorado top the Canadiens. They enjoyed dinner in a private suite, received authentic No. 92 sweaters and cheered the Avalanche to victory. The guests were chosen for their outstanding behavior and commitment to community service.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to help out in a way like that and to introduce kids to this great sport that we have here,” said Landeskog. “I think hockey is such a tremendous sport to watch live. Once you see it one time, you’re hooked. It’s a lot more fun live than watching it on TV.
“It’s great to be able to bring these kids out to a game. As a professional athlete, I think we have the responsibility to help out in the community and to do things like this. It’s something that I feel very fortunate to be able to do.”
The concept is something that the Colorado forward had been wanting to do for a while, but things didn’t come together until just before the start of the 2015-16 season.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and this summer we worked hard on it, my team and I did,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue to do it for many more games to come. I think we’re doing it six more times this season, and we’re hoping to do it for quite a handful of home games in the future. The goal is just to get some people to the games, whether it’s kids from the hospital that might need that support or from the community. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more work with it.”
Landeskog also sees the Landy’s Friends initiative as a chance to shape future generations into compassionate citizens.
“The whole Landy’s Friends suite is in conjunction with my work through the Friends anti-bullying organization,” he said. “The goal is for kids to come to the box and learn a little bit about Friends as well. Everyone can learn about how to treat each other with respect, and it’s something that kind of goes hand in hand with what Friends is trying to do. With these kids, obviously they experience watching hockey and coming to the Pepsi Center, but they also get to learn about Friends and how important that is to me. Hopefully they can learn from it.
“Representatives from Friends will be there to talk to them and really just be ambassadors for the anti-bullying organization.”
Aside from the unique experience of being the special guest of the Avalanche’s captain, taking in a game in a private suite and getting free gear, Landy’s Friends is an opportunity for Landeskog to connect with the local community.
“We didn’t get to meet them last night. It got a little late after the game, and unfortunately they had to leave,” Landeskog said. “But in the future, I’m hoping to be able to go up and say hi in the box and take some pictures and stuff. I’m looking forward to it.
“If they don’t get hooked on hockey, at least it’s a memory of a lifetime.”
Wednesday night was the start of something great for both Landeskog and Colorado, and it will only get better.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to build it and to getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “We want to get as many kids as possible from a bunch of different organizations into Pepsi Center.”
Learn more about the anti-bullying group Friends.