Russ Cohen 2018-01-09 23:42:17
Johnny Gaudreau grew up in Salem, New Jersey. He’s a hockey savant. South Jersey is Flyers country but anytime “Johnny Hockey” comes to town, fans applaud him. It’s rare that an opposing player can get the kind of adulation he does. He’s not viewed as the enemy but rather a friend of the family. “It’s exciting. I get to come home and see some family and friends, my niece, I get to play in front of all of them. It’s something you dream about as a kid playing in front of your hometown friends and family,” said Gaudreau, who attended Gloucester Catholic High School and also had his jersey number retired by the school. “I’ve only got to do it twice. Unfortunately, I was injured last season when we came to Philadelphia. I was bummed out about it. I’m excited to be here this time around.” At 5-9, 157 pounds, he draws a lot of attention from the NHL’s best defenders. Most times his speed and elusiveness have kept him fairly healthy. But last season he had a fractured finger, which caused him to miss playing against the Flyers during the Flames’ visit to Philadelphia. “Not too much nerves playing here. It’s more excitement. I think everybody likes coming back playing in their hometown in front of people who really care about you and support you,” he said. Since this season’s game was close to Thanksgiving, he had some thoughts about being home almost in time for the holiday. “Growing up we always had a big Thanksgiving feast at my house in New Jersey. I’d have my brother-in-law’s family coming over and my family there and it was always a good time.” Gaudreau finished last season with a disappointing 18 goals and 61 points. That was the lowest point total in the diminutive forward’s brief career and he was hell bent in changing that. This season Gaudreau is off to a fast start. He will easily surpass the 18 goals he got last year and is more on pace to get 30, his career high, once again. His linemates, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland have performed better this season as well. “I think my line is playing really well right now. I think we’re better in the defensive zone which is something I think we can grow from compared to last season, the offense is going well,” he admitted. He grew up a Flyers fan and as such certainly attended the Flyers Wives Carnival every year. Almost every kid from South Jersey has gone at least once in their life. “I think I went once or twice when I was younger. All the guys running around getting autographs from the Flyers was fun. I still think I have a few Flyers hats around my house,” Gaudreau divulged. “I have a ton of autographs in my house, which was always fun for me meeting those guys and now I get to play against them, so it’s cool.” We all had a favorite player growing up and his was one of the best American- born players of his generation. “When I was younger, my favorite player was (former Flyer) John Le- Clair.” Gaudreau’s father, Guy, is the Director of Ice Hockey Operations at Hollydell Ice Arena in Sewell, which certainly shaped the early part of Johnny’s playing career, and also explains why local fans really admire him. “My dad owns the rink down there. I used to skate all the time for free,” he laughed. “Down at the rink, since it’s not a big hockey area, I have a lot of the younger hockey kids come up and say hello. It’s good to have those younger kids come up and talk to me.” In a weird twist of fate, “Johnny Hockey” had a chance to play for a National Championship in 2014 when he led his Boston College team to a Frozen Four appearance in Philadelphia. Very few people get a chance to win a title in front of their hometown fans. Three years after he was drafted, and slipped to the fourth round, he had reached the pinnacle of college hockey. His team was beaten by eventual champion Union, which was led by current Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostibehere and Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Mike Vecchione. Gaudreau didn’t walk away without a trophy, however, He won the Hobey Baker Award, given to the best player in college hockey that season. When the voting for the NHL’s Hart Trophy, given to the league’s Most Valuable Player, starts being discussed later this year, this Calgary Flames dynamo will certainly be in the conversation. With a fair portion of the season behind him, he’s among the league leaders in points, keeping pace with players like Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. He’s already won a Lady Byng Award in 2016-17 (for exhibiting sportsmanlike conduct) and he was a Calder Trophy Finalist (given to the league’s top rookie) in 2015 and he was an All-Star that same season. So, his trophy case soon could be expanding to accommodate the additional awards headed his way. Gaudreau may soon be mentioned with some other South Jersey sports legends like Mike Trout. This past August, Gaudreau was inducted into the Salem County Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at Salem County Community College. The 24-year-old has started to carve out a very memorable career for himself locally and globally. Even if he never plays for his hometown team, the Flyers, he will always have scores of fans coming to see his games when his team comes into town.
Published by AAA South Jersey. View All Articles.