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NHL players take Super Bowl sides

Gaudreau fans Flames with love of hometown Eagles

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Teammates in the NHL are almost always unified in the common cause of bringing glory to their team.

Not so much, though, when it comes to NFL allegiances.

Nowhere was that more evident than the Calgary Flames dressing room in the run-up to Super Bowl LII, a matchup between the underdog Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl last season and are going for their sixth title.

Forward Johnny Gaudreau has never been shy about his South Jersey roots. He was born in Salem, New Jersey, and attended Gloucester Catholic High School before leaving to chase his professional hockey dream.

Most South Jerseyans align themselves with the professional sports teams across the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Gaudreau is no exception, casting his lot with the Eagles.

"I'm excited. I think if our defense plays well, rushes Tom [Brady] and makes him struggle back there, hopefully we can get the win," he said. "But I think our defense, hopefully they play well."

Video: NHL All-Stars make their Super Bowl Predictions

Gaudreau's rooting interest may be heightened, he said, by living in enemy territory for three years while playing for Boston College from 2011-14. There he was surrounded by an undying fervor for a team that has dominated the football landscape for about as long as Gaudreau, 25, has been alive.

"All I heard [at Boston College] was, 'Pats, Pats, Pats, Pats, Pats,'" Gaudreau said this week. "It's nice to get a chance to watch the Eagles play against them. I don't think they've played against them since I left BC. I'm really looking forward to it."

Gaudreau said he made some friendly wagers with former Boston College teammates, including forward Kevin Hayes of the New York Rangers.

Gaudreau has some support in the Calgary room.

"I'm a Steelers fan, so … I'd like to see the Eagles win," forward Matt Stajan said. "I think we've seen enough of New England the last 15 years, but it's amazing what they've done. I'll go with Philly, just because Johnny could be really happy about it. He's a big Eagles fan."

But not all of Gaudreau's teammates have his back. Some, it seems, will enjoy watching Gaudreau squirm when the group gets together as a team to watch the game on Sunday.

"That's a reason to root against the Eagles," forward Curtis Lazar said. "It's going to be cool. We've got our little get-together planned. I just hope for a good game. That's pretty much it for me."

Like the general public, most hockey players have an opinion on the game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority believe New England, behind the play of Brady, will be crowned champions again.

Here are thoughts on the game from players (and a coach) around the NHL:

 

Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild

"I'm going to go to the game on Sunday. (I'm cheering for the) Patriots probably. I'm such a big [Rob Gronkowski] fan. I love watching. I love his Instagram. I can't wait to see him."

 

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild

"I bet against Tom [Brady] last year, I've smartened up since then. It's TB12 (Brady) and the Pats for me. I was cheering for the Vikes (who lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game) ... so unfortunate they couldn't be in the final dance."

 

Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild coach

"One of those two teams. The Vikings aren't in it so doesn't really matter. I just want to see like you usually want to see is an exciting game that comes out at the end."

 

Luke Glendening, Detroit Red Wings

"Eagles; I like their story. They've had a great season. I work out with (Philadelphia defensive end) Brandon Graham, so it would be awesome to see him win."

 

Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings

"Eagles. They've got a good team, their defense is playing well. We will see how (Nick) Foles does, but he's been looking good in the playoffs. It's hard to go against Brady and the Patriots."

 

Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings

"Playing in Manchester, New Hampshire {the Kings' former American Hockey League affiliate], we went to a couple of Pats games, so I've got to go with Tom [Brady] and the Pats. I think just [Bill] Belichick and the experience that they have. The Eagles are a good team. They've been exciting and Foles has done awesome, but for some reason Tom and those guys always find a way to get it done. I'm sure a lot of people are saying it, but I'm going to have to go with the Pats as well."

 

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

"I think going any game with Belichick and Brady, you have to give them an edge. But once the ball is kicked, you never know what will happen."

 

Andrew Copp, Winnipeg Jets

"Patriots, because of Tom Brady. I think the Patriots without him are a completely different team. Their trust in him, their belief that they come back from any score and he can control a game, it's huge. He's the difference."

 

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Vegas Golden Knights

"I'm not an expert, but I was in Philly for three years (playing with the Flyers) and I wouldn't mind having the Eagles winning. It's been a long time since they were in the Super Bowl. The town needs it more than people know. The Pats, they've won so many times, so it would be good for the league if another team would come and win, just to open up the league."

 

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

"I'll take the Pats. As a New Jersey guy, I do have Boston ties, but if there's one thing (about New Jersey), it's not liking Philly. So I think that's one thing I can get on board with, for sure."

 

Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres

"Eagles. I would like New England to lose, but that's a tough one. I've got New England losing … I just want them to. [Teammate] Jack [Eichel, a Massachusetts native] wouldn't be too happy about that one."

 

Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers

"I'm a little bitter about the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the Eagles. Obviously Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats, actually the all-time great quarterback, so I do like to cheer for greatness, but I'm kind of sick of the Canadians in the locker room cheering for the Patriots. They think they can just pick the best team and cheer for them, so I don't really want them to win either because I don't want to hear it from Keith Yandle or Brian Godin, our equipment manager. I don't know, I don't really have a pick for the Super Bowl. Obviously, this year, it's in Minnesota, so I'm excited about that, and the people where I'm from are super excited, but other than that I'm very indifferent."

 

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

"I think everyone knows in the sports world how tough it is to get to the top and do it time and time again and win championships, and it's pretty incredible to see Tom Brady, at his age (40), he's obviously doing something right. You almost want to see someone else get over that hump but you also don't want to turn into a Tom Brady hater because you have to respect what he has done, so I just hope it's a good game."

 

Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

"Patriots. One, the Eagles beat the Vikes. Two, it's hard not to like Tom Brady."

 

Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers

"You can't go against Tom. That's the problem, they're too good. When you don't think they're going to win, they win. ... I have a soft spot for Philly for sure (Nurse is related to former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb), but you see how good Tom Brady is, it's hard to go against it. I hope the Eagles win, but I think the Patriots will win."

 

Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators

"I can't go against the Patriots. I like Brady, I like dynasties too. I know a lot of people don't like the Pats, but I like them. They're not my favorite team, but I respect them a lot."

 

Matthew Peca, Tampa Bay Lightning

"How can you not love Tom Brady? He's a worker; he's a leader. Dynasty with that team. You can never count him out and you love guys like that. ... Seeing a guy in his position build a legacy and do that kind of stuff, I'm a guy that always likes to see it."

 

Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes

"Philadelphia. It would be kind of cool to see a new team win. They've gone through a lot of controversy this season with the hurt quarterback (Carson Wentz). So if they can pull through, I think it would be a cool moment for the city."

 

Ryan Reaves, Pittsburgh Penguins

"Eagles.I think they have a good D."

 

Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators

"I've got to go with Brady and the Patriots. I think it's just pretty remarkable how dominant he's been over the years and their group there. It would just be really impressive to see them win again. I was hoping the Vikings would get through to be able to play in their home city against the Pats. It would've been an interesting final, but I've got to go with the Patriots."

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