Gabriel Landeskog's grandmother used to record NHL games on video cassette tapes so he could watch them repeatedly. The Colorado Avalanche forward said it's how his love of hockey came to be, where his dreams of one day playing in the NHL were born.
"This is back in the late 90s, so we didn't have the same TV channels as we do right now [in Sweden] and there wasn't the same TV coverage," Landeskog said during an interview conducted in Stockholm, his home city, prior to training camp. "But there was a channel, TV3, I believe it was, that would air the odd NHL game. We didn't have that in our family, but my grandfather and grandmother did. My grandmother knew that Peter Forsberg was my favorite player and I loved the NHL so she would record and once a month she would drop off four or five VHS tapes at my house or we'd go pick them up."
Landeskog remembers one game in particular.
"There was an All-Star Game she recorded for me, I don't know if it was '98 or '99, but I'm pretty sure I watched it over 500 times," said Landeskog, who was named Avalanche captain on Sept. 4, 2012. "That might be an outrageous number, but I used to watch it all the time. I'm not much for re-watching movies or TV shows or anything like that, but this game, I loved it. It was [Wayne] Gretzky and [Peter] Forsberg and [Eric] Lindros and all these guys. I watched the skills competition and Ray Bourque would win [the accuracy shooting], hit four targets in five or six shots. I'd watch the game over and over and over again.
"It just so happens this past year I got to play in my first All-Star Game."
Landeskog hasn't yet re-watched himself playing in the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game, but the 26-year-old said he cherished the experience.
"I don't see myself as an All-Star, as that type of player, but to have that taste for a weekend, it was great," he said. "I tried to enjoy the whole experience and it was a lot of fun."
Landeskog dove deeper into who he is and what this season means for the Avalanche while also trying to have a little fun at a teammate's expense in the interview.
Here are Five Questions with … Gabriel Landeskog:
You're from Stockholm. You grew up here. You live here in the offseason. How is it possible that you don't have an accent?
"Yeah, I get this question quite a bit. I don't know, I moved to Kitchener, Ontario, to play in the OHL when I was 16 and I obviously had an accent at that point. I used to get laughed at and made fun of, so I tried my best to get rid of it. Nowadays my wife is like, 'Man, I wish you had a Swedish accent, that would be so hot.' I don't have one, I guess. It's funny, a lot of people say I sound like I'm from the Canadian prairies somewhere.
"In Sweden, you study English from about Grade 3. At that point you learn to say yes, no, my name is, hello and that type of thing. Gradually you get better from there. By the time i moved to Kitchener, I think my English was above average in Sweden for my grade. But for me, honestly, it was a mindset because I always wanted to play in the NHL, I always wanted to move to North America. I figured if I know the language, it's only going to help my hockey career and it's only going to make life easier for me. … For me, I guess I just wanted to sound like you do in North America. … If I didn't have a Canadian wife it would probably be different, but we speak English all the time at home. I speak English to my dog, that's the level it's at. But now I've got to work on my Swedish instead because I'm slowly losing my Swedish. I'm not kidding. It's hard to transition back and forth."
You're 26 years old now, turning 27 in November, and you're going into your ninth NHL season. I've always heard older players telling younger players, 'It goes fast, enjoy it.' You've played in 579 games. Is it hard for you to believe that?
"That really is crazy when you think about it because it truly does feel like it yesterday when I came into the League. I remember that first season so vividly. I remember that first season more than I do the season two years ago. I don't know what it is, but it's crazy. I remember, just like you said, everybody used to tell me it and they really did. Everybody would tell you, 'You're going into your rookie year, enjoy it, but it's going to move fast so have fun with it.' It was that type of thing. But I'm really sitting here going into my ninth year and I feel like I have done nothing. I know the stats say 579 games, but it feels like I have done nothing. I feel like I have so much left to accomplish. Obviously you want to win the Stanley Cup, that's why you play this game, but I've got to start playing here. I've got to start winning."
Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Landeskog
Good segue to the next question: Do you feel like the Avalanche are closer to winning the Stanley Cup now than they have since you've been in Denver?
"Yes, 100 percent. That's what I've been telling people. I can't remember the last time we went into training camp with a roster like this, making the changes we made this year. Having said that, it's not a guarantee for anything. You constantly have to prove yourself. Every day and every year you have to prove yourself as a group, and the minute you relax and you think you're an automatic playoff team, the minute you think you're an automatic contender, that's when you're bound to take a step backward. Having said that, we're really excited about the group that we have and the changes we made this year. I truly believe in the path that we're on."
Let's go back to the moment in Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, when you were ruled offside at the bench, skates still on the ice, after a coach's challenge and the would-be game-tying goal in the second period was taken off the board. Colorado loses 3-2. Season over. You took the blame for it after the game, called it a clumsy mistake. Have you gotten over it? Can you get over it or do you have to get back on the ice, in that position again, to move on?
"I don't know, to be honest with you, where I'm at with it. I don't think I've really settled one way or another. I firmly stand behind the comments that I made after the game. I don't envy the linesman. I don't envy the guys having to make that call at that point in the game, at that point in a playoff series. It's hard. Players, we say that all the time, it's a fast game, things happen. Linesman should be saying the same thing because it really is. Having said that, I think I could have done a lot different. I could have jumped over the boards. I could have done this or that. I don't want to blame my good friend and linemate Mikko [Rantanen], but he got off the ice and was sitting on the bench, re-tying his skates, whatever he was doing instead of opening the gate for me (laughs). Everything is said and done. I've seen it slowed down. I've seen different angles and whatnot. I don't know. I don't know if the right call was made. It happened. What are you going to do?
"We're sitting here and it's a new season upon us, so it doesn't matter. And even if we would have scored 2-2, who knows if we would have won? Could've, would've, should've. You never know. You could always say that, but I stand behind the comments that I made. I hope we get another shot at another run with it."
Video: Situation Room: Wilson's goal overturned after review
On to a different topic: Nathan MacKinnon. Can you tell me something that we don't know about Nathan MacKinnon?
"I feel like nowadays there is so much transparency with social media and things like that so you get to know players at different levels, but Nate brags about his golf game and he owns golf clubs that are $8,000 a set, blah, blah, blah. The truth of the matter is he wasn't like this when he came into the NHL. He had the worst golf swing I'd ever seen. Back then, I used to be a better golfer than him. I'm OK, not great by any means. But he would take lessons and lessons and lessons during every hockey season. He would just take lessons. But to his credit, that's just how competitive he is. It goes to show you he's a freak and whatever he does, he wants to be the best at it. Now, he's 1-over par, 2-over par at some good courses and owns a pair of $8,000 golf clubs. So for everyone out there, when you hear Nate MacKinnon bragging about his golf game, it's not because he's a natural. He paid a lot of money for a swing coach and he worked at it. But I love Nate. He's part of the reason why our team is where we are and hopefully for a long time to come."