Johnny Gaudreau chose to return to Boston College for his junior year before signing his first NHL contract. (Photo / Boston College Athletics / John Quackenbos)
In the game of college football there is only one Johnny Football, but he isn’t the only Johnny. In collegiate men’s ice hockey there is Johnny Hockey, also known as John Gaudreau: a former Boston College forward, Hobey Baker winner and current US National team member.
He’s also a man that loves Skittles. Or he did at 18 months when his father Guy first introduced him to the ice at the Hollydell Ice Arena where he serves as director.
“I coached, so I’d put Skittles on the ice and have them skate up to it, or crawl up to it just to entertain [John and his younger brother Matt] for an hour on an ice ... We did that for the first three or four months and then they started skating on their own,” Guy said.
|On April 11, Gaudreau became the latest recipient of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. That same day, Johnny Hockey signed his first NHL contract with the Calgary Flames. (Photo / Boston College Athletics, John Quackenbos) |
Almost 18 years later Guy is still watching his son find his way on a sheet of ice. Now, instead of chasing Skittles he’s chasing the puck for the Calgary Flames.
“It went by too fast,” said the proud father. “I remember like it was yesterday that I was doing that [with the Skittles]. The first day I put him on the ice he was 18-months, still in diapers and he didn’t do anything. I told my wife, I don’t think he’s going to make it here, and she said why don’t we see once he has his diapers off to see how it’ll work out.”
It turns out Guy’s wife Jane was right because their son turned into one of, if not the top collegiate ice hockey player in the country. Standing at only 5-foot-8 John is far from the largest player on his team. However whether he was with his junior team, the Dubuque Fighting Saints, his college team, the Boston College Eagles, or his new NHL team, he made sure to use that challenge to push himself to the top.
“He’s always enjoyed that challenge. When he went out to play juniors people told him, you’re 5-foot-6,135 pounds, you’re not playing in the juniors … and he said, ‘I am,’ and so he went out and took on the challenge. I know it was tough the first couple of games knowing that they said that, but after he got into a flow he was fine. Then his junior coach told him he wasn’t ready to play college. He went and played college hockey and did well too. So I think he knows when it’s time to make that next move.”
John, who grew up in Carney’s Point, New Jersey, was rumored to not be coming back to Boston College at the beginning of the season, opting to play for the Calgary Flames who drafted him in 2011. Instead he put those rumors to rest, suiting up as a BC Eagle alongside his younger brother Matt who made his team debut this year as a freshman.
His junior season proved to be a lucrative one, despite BC losing to eventual NCAA DI Men’s Ice Hockey champions, Union College. He quickly solidified himself as an offensive powerhouse by leading the NCAA in all major scoring categories and being named the League Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
In April he was named the 2014 Hobey Baker winner. The Hobey Baker Award is named after Princeton player, Hobey Baker, and is given each year to an athlete that exhibits great character on and off the ice. This year John was a true embodiment of what it means to win the coveted award.
The same day he received the Hobey Baker, he embarked on a new phase in his young career by officially signing an entry-level contract with the Flames.
“I’m a hockey person, so I never even thought of him accomplishing what he has been able to accomplish because of his size,” Guy said. “He’s worked so hard at it and we’re proud of him. It’s almost like a dream to be honest. We were sitting in Vancouver, my wife and I, and watching this NHL game. Our son is in it and we’re like it’s unbelievable. I can’t explain it, it’s hard to believe it’s our son until he comes out and we start talking to him.”
|Gaudreau joined an elite list of NHL alumni when he scored his first goal on his first shot taken in the NHL. (Photo / Getty Images) |
Guy’s son joined an elite group of NHL alumni such as Mario Lemieux, Luca Caputi, Neal Coulter, Anders Lee and Nikita Kucherov who made their first NHL goal on their first shot ever taken.
“We were just hoping that he played well and competed hard. We never expected that to happen. He’s always been good around the net, so if you give him a chance he’s pretty successful at it. It’s quite an accomplishment for him and not just the goal. I thought he played well overall and made some nice plays so I was pretty proud,” Guy said of his oldest son.
Guy coached his sons until they were 14, but you still get the sense that he isn’t your average hockey parent just by speaking with him. Growing up with his own love of the game, Guy hasn’t just passed his skills and knowledge down; he’s passed down his total understanding and love for the game as well.
“When we first started when the boys were little I told my wife I hope that they love the game as much as I love the game and respect the game the way I respect the game,” Guy proudly said. Wherever it goes, I don’t care where it goes. They both have done that to the point where they love the game, they respect the game and they just love being around the game. To me as a parent, as a hockey person, that’s the proudest I am of the both of them.”
All the long nights and weekends spent at tournaments have paid off as Jane and Guy watched their son compete against the Vancouver Canucks. And the opportunities keep coming for the eldest Gaudreau brother. It was just recently announced that he will be a part of USA Hockey’s U.S. Men’s National Team that will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Men’s Championship in May. This is an honor that he wasn’t sure he would even be able to accept because despite his accomplishments in the rink he can’t forget about his accomplishments in the classroom as well.
“He was asked to play with the US team and we weren’t going to let him go, which is why it wasn’t announced until just recently. He’s been working with his academic advisors and professors to get his work done before he leaves, so it sounds like he got all that taken care of and we gave him the green light to go. That wasn’t going to happen until we were sure he was going to get his courses in and get credit for them,” commented Guy, speaking like a true hockey parent.
It goes to show that no matter how old John gets or how much he accomplishes, he will always be that little skater crawling on the ice looking for Skittles.
For more, head to NJ Youth Hockey Central.