The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Labate excelled as a ‘true’ freshman this past season at the University of Wisconsin, posting 20 points (5-15-20) in 37 games, leading all freshmen on the team in scoring, and was one of nine Badgers to play in every game.
Canucks.com recently caught up with the well-spoken Minnesota native to discuss a wide assortment of topics, ranging from his on-ice play to his favorite movies. Want to know what his favorite television series is? Here is a hint: it is legen – wait for it – dary!
Canucks.com: Minnesota is known as the hockey 'hot-bed' of the United States, was this the case growing up in Eagan, Minnesota?
Labate: “Yes growing up in Minnesota you eat, breathe, sleep hockey, whether it be at the youth, high school or college level it is around us everyday. Hockey in Minnesota is more than a sport, it is a lifestyle.”
CDC: Which NHL player did you idolize growing up?
L: “I have always liked watching big skilled forwards. I was a huge Mario Lemieux fan. As I got older I really liked watching Joe Thornton play and seeing how skilled and smart he is on the ice.”
CDC: Your style of play is suited to the Western Hockey League, was there any thought of you coming to Canada and play 'Major Junior' instead of the NCAA?
L: “No, I never considered it, going to college and getting a quality education was very important to me.”
CDC: There are a lot of great schools in the region, why did you choose the University of Wisconsin?
L: “It had everything I was looking for. Great hockey program and great academics, it has a great track record of developing players for the NHL and I really like the coaching staff at Wisconsin. It was close enough so my family and friends can watch me play, they have great facilities for training and one of the best ice rinks to play in the country. I also really liked Madison and how it is a college town with great school spirit.”
CDC: You were drafted by the Canucks in the 4th round, #101 overall, last June. How special of a day was that for you?
L: “It was a great day for my family and I. I was very blessed to have it in my hometown and be able to have my family and friends share in the exciting day. It is something that I will remember and value for the rest of my life.”
CDC: You put up good numbers this past season as a true freshman, how did you feel your season went?
L: “I was very proud of the season I had. I was told it was going to be a very difficult year and some people didn't think I could make a impact coming straight in, but I believe I did. I was able to play in every game and put up points. There were a lot of ups and downs during the season, but I feel like I really benefited from coming straight into college and because of that I am a better player.”
CDC: Next season you will be taking part in an outdoor game against the University of Minnesota at Soldier Field in Chicago, excited?
L: “That is going to be a amazing experience, especially since we are playing our rivals University of Minnesota and being from Minnesota it is going to make it that much more special. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and once in a lifetime game to participate in, I will cherish it for years to come.”
CDC: Student-Athletes in the NCAA spend a lot of time in the weight room, have you noticed a difference after one season with your strength?
L: “Absolutely. I graduated high school at 6-foot-4, 180-pounds and I am currently at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds. I have been working with my current strength coach at Wisconsin for the past year and have continued to make strength gains in all of my workouts and lifts. Those strength gains have directly increased my on ice abilities.”
CDC: Which NHL player, past or present, do you think resembles your style of play?
L: “Over the years I have focused on watching certain players, primarily big, strong, skilled forwards who have the ability to bring a lot to the game. Down the road I hope to bring these same attributes to my team. Some of the players I have focused on watching: Joe Thornton because of how skilled and smart he is; David Backes because he plays with a physical edge in his game but is also a very skilled player and a great leader; Evgeni Malkin because of his ability to bring such finesse, skilled game while being a bigger player in the league. I try to implement many of these skills into my current game to the best of my ability.”
CDC: How are you enjoying the academic life? What kind of courses are you taking?
L: “Yes, I enjoy going to college. It is tough balancing academics and athletics, but I feel like I am figuring it out and learning really strong valuable time management skills. I am taking prerequisite courses to apply to the Business School at Wisconsin.”
CDC: What are some of your hobbies away from the rink?
L: “I enjoy going to my cabin. I spend a lot of time fishing and hunting”
CDC: What genre of music do you listen to?
L: “Country, Rap, Hip-Hop, Old school rock, I have been getting into more electronic music when I work out.”
CDC: What is your favorite movie?
L: “I have too many favorites to list, but currently I really enjoy all types of genres of movies especially: Slum Dog Millionaire, Immortals, Contraband, American Reunion and 21 Jump Street. “
CDC: What book you currently reading?
L: “I have been reading The Hunger Games; some of my other favorite books are Into Thin Air, Harry Potter, and any fishing and hunting books.”
CDC: What are some of your favorite television shows?
L: “My favorite TV Shows are How I Met Your Mother, Spartacus, Terra Nova, and Boy Meets World to name a few.”
CDC: If you were not a hockey player, what would you be?
L: “I come from a family of successful business professionals and could see myself working in that industry primarily in finance because of the strong competitive environment of the industry and the strong focus on performance.”
CDC: Thanks for taking the time to chat with Canucks.com Joseph.
L: “You’re welcome.”