Getting to go back towards your home area, you’ve got family and friends who are going to be at almost every single game. I have family and friends coming to the game. It’s pretty exciting. - Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY, AB -- The docket calls them road games for the Calgary Flames, but Johnny Gaudreau is going to be right at home.
With stops against the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins as part of a season-long seven-game road trip, Gaudreau will be making the first rounds in his old stomping grounds as a National Hockey Leaguer.
“I’m excited,” said the 21-year-old, who can add games against the New York Rangers and New York Islanders among anticipated stops. “I get to go home towards Philly and I spent the last three years in Boston so I get to go there, too. It’s going to be a fun road trip for me.
“Getting to go back towards your home area, you’ve got family and friends who are going to be at almost every single game. I have family and friends coming to the game. It’s pretty exciting.”
Carney’s Point, NJ, home to the Gaudreaus, is just 35 miles from Philadelphia. Conversely, it’s about 110 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark -- the home of the Devils. A stone’s throw from that is Madison Square Garden in New York City as well as Long Island.
It’s further down the road in Boston that one might suggest is his second home. Gaudreau spent three seasons starring at Boston College, including a memorable sendoff before signing with the Flames last April.
In his junior season, Gaudreau led all NCAA players with 36 goals and 80 points through 40 games, including a 31-game point streak matched the Hockey East record set by Maine's Paul Kariya during the 1992-93 season. He won the Hobey Baker Award, was tagged as the Hockey East Player of the Year, Walter Brown Award winner, Leonard Fowle Award winner, Herb Gallagher Award winner and a Hockey East First-Team All Star.
Understanding, no doubt, as to why the 5-foot-9, 150 pound winger might be boarding a Monday morning flight with a little eager anticipation.
Even he found it difficult to pinpoint which stop will be most memorable.
“They’re all a lot of good options,” said Gaudreau, citing cheesesteaks trump clam chowder and deli sandwiches. “Philly, I have a ton of people coming to that game. I couldn’t even tell you how many people. I grew up there. I have high school friends and teachers that are all coming to my games. Philly will be pretty special. Madison Square Garden, it’s so historical and I’ve never been to the arena before in my life. That’s going to be a fun one, too.
“It’s going to be an expensive trip, that’s for sure. In Boston I’ve got 15, 20 people, I think, I’ve got to get tickets for. I’m excited. It’s definitely worth it.”
But the Flames aren’t about to shield Gaudreau, one of several candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the League’s top rookie this season.
“It’s going to be another great learning experience for Johnny,” coach Bob Hartley said. “It’s part of the business. Johnny has grown so much since Day 1 of development camp it’s unbelievable. You look at the role we’re giving him. If we’re giving him that role, if we’re giving him those minutes is because we feel he earned them and he can handle them.
“We’re going to help him but at the same time Johnny knows what he’s doing. He’s had that attention before. Obviously this is a different level, but it’s all part of the process. He’s going to be fine. We’re not going to hide him. We don’t hide no one.”
There won’t be much of a chance to.
Those vying for attention from Gaudreau will be at every stop, whether its media requests, family requests or simply friends hoping to reconnect.
And while he hasn’t done quite this circuit, Gaudreau has gone through a similar song and dance.
“I’m definitely going to be busier off the ice,” said Gaudreau, who was trumpeted in an earlier season stop in Toronto and served as one of two representitives for the Flames at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus a month ago.
“This is home. I’m excited. I’m just going to try to take it all in.”