Bud­ding su­per­star

The Elias Pet­ters­son you don’t know, ac­cord­ing to his team­mates

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Pa­trick JOHN­STON

Elias Pet­ters­son’s on-ice per­son­al­ity glowed from the mo­ment he stepped on the ice for his first pre-sea­son game with the Van­cou­ver Canucks. He didn’t score in that mid-Septem­ber game, but that didn’t mat­ter. He did ev­ery­thing else. He daz­zled with puck skills. He stood out as the best player on the ice.

And then there was the sea­son opener, where he scored one of the finest goals Van­cou­ver has ever seen.

Two months later, the buzz when he col­lects the puck still picks up.

But off the ice, he’s an ath­lete Van­cou­ver is still get­ting to know.

There are plenty of sports per­son­al­i­ties who’ve made their mark on Rain City over the years: the Sedins, Kesler, Naslund, Ber­tuzzi, Bure, Lin­den, Pas­saglia, Buono, Reeves, Sin­clair and Nash to name but a few.

Pet­ters­son will no doubt join that group one day. And though he finds him­self in front of cam­eras and re­porters most days, where there have been mo­ments in which his steely glare has drawn at­ten­tion, or where a dry joke has cracked up his in­ter­locu­tors, he mostly re­mains a quiet soul ac­cord­ing to those who have come to know him best.

Brock Boeser, still a rel­a­tively fresh face in Van­cou­ver him­self, is Pet­ters­son’s room­mate on the road. He also lives near the 20-year-old cen­tre and sees the young Swede of­ten away from the rink.

“He’s a quiet kid at first,” Boeser said when queried about Pet­ters­son, who is just 17 months younger than the Min­nesota na­tive. “I think he’s kind of like me, quiet at first un­til he gets to know peo­ple around him. Then he opens up.”

Be­ing room­mates means there’s plenty of time to chat on the road. “We’ll talk about the game. We’ve talked about our fam­i­lies, what they do, his friends back home,” Boeser said.

“He’s a funny kid, got a dry sense of hu­mour. He’s al­ways in a good mood.”

Niko­lay Goldobin is an­other team­mate who’s made a con­nec­tion and is prov­ing to be a reg­u­lar com­pan­ion. And while the Rus­sian is three years Pet­ters­son’s se­nior, that hasn’t been a bar­rier. The two dressed up as Min­ions at Hal­loween, for ex­am­ple.

“Both young guys, we like sim­i­lar things,” Goldobin said about their quick off-ice con­nec­tion, which in many ways mim­ics their on-ice chem­istry. “And I still feel a lit­tle like I’m new to the team too.

“Both Euro­peans,” he added, suggest­ing their sta­tus as cul­tural out­siders over­lapped.

The duo are two of a half-dozen Canucks for­wards who hail from out­side of North Amer­ica.

In sim­i­lar terms, Boeser noted, Pet­ters­son also has the “Swedish guys.”

Vet­eran team­mates Alex Edler and Loui Eriks­son, along with goalies Ja­cob Mark­strom and An­ders Nils­son all bring a touch of home.

Eriks­son, who has known Pet­ters­son’s junior team­mate Jonathan Dahlen for years, took the two young Swedes out for din­ner on the eve of train­ing camp. Dahlen, who played with Pet­ters­son in Timra, is now with the Canucks’ Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate in Utica.

Eriks­son re­mem­bers his own tran­si­tion to North Amer­i­can life 13 years ago with the Dal­las Stars and fig­ured he should ex­tend to his new young team­mates a wel­com­ing hand with a fa­mil­iar cul­tural bent.

Edler, now the sec­ond-eldest player on the squad at 32, thinks back to how the older play­ers on the team helped him along when he was a rookie finding his way in the NHL, a dozen sea­sons ago.

It’s only nat­u­ral that he’d look to do the same for Pet­ters­son.

“He’s a pretty quiet guy, like a lot of Swedes,” Edler said. “You can tell that he’s very se­ri­ous. He wants to get bet­ter. He cares. He wants to learn. He’s a good guy.”

Un­derneath that quiet shell is im­mense fo­cus, said Edler.

“I think like ev­ery­one else… he likes to com­pete, to play in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. I think him, and maybe my­self too, you might not see it on the out­side, but it’s there on the in­side.”

In con­ver­sa­tions with the me­dia, Pet­ters­son will some­times pause, look­ing for the word he hopes will best suit his mean­ing.

That’s some­thing he does away from the rink, too.

“He asks me about English, some­times he doesn’t know words,” Boeser said.

The team’s other rookie, Adam Gaudette, echoes the “quiet kid” ob­ser­va­tion.

But that doesn’t mean he’s lonely. Gaudette and Pet­ters­son may be among the team’s young play­ers, but there are plenty of oth­ers within a year or two in age. And that’s helped Pet­ters­son find mo­ments to lift the lid a touch.

“(Hav­ing) a lot of young guys in the room makes it eas­ier to con­nect,” Gaudette said. “Once you get to know (Pet­ters­son) he opens up a lit­tle. He’s a funny kid. ”

Boeser fig­ured some of this quiet­ness is about Pet­ters­son feel­ing his place in the so­cial hier­ar­chy of a group he just joined.

“He’s a su­per nice kid. I think it’s just his per­son­al­ity, he’s kind of a shy kid,” he said. “(But) also as a young guy, you look to see what the older guys are do­ing. You don’t want to push any bound­aries.”

Ben Brown, the team’s di­rec­tor of me­dia re­la­tions, has noted that the high stan­dard Pet­ters­son sets for him­self ex­tends from the ice into the dress­ing room and out to­wards the me­dia and the broader pub­lic.

“I think he sets a pretty high stan­dard,” he said. “He’s think­ing about what he wants to say, be­fore he’s asked a ques­tion. For a (teenage rookie) to be aware of that, of the power of what his mes­sage is, puts him in a class all his own.

“He has a good sense for what oth­ers are go­ing through and an abil­ity to re­late to that and he doesn’t let that go to his head.”

Brown said a con­ver­sa­tion the Canucks’ of­fi­cial me­dia team filmed early in the sea­son with Pet­ters­son’s par­ents, Tor­b­jörn and Irene, still stands out.

Irene said her son was “still the same as he (was) be­fore all the fame and all the prizes last year.” Brown noted Irene’s pride in her son’s even keel.

“I thought that was a pretty pow­er­ful thing,” he said.

PET­TERS­SON

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JEFF VINNICK /VAN­COU­VER CANUCKS

Elias Pet­ters­son, left, and Brock Boeser are room­mates on the road.

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