Deceptive on and off the ice, Gaudreau voted Flames Most Interesting Man

Calgary Flames centre Elias Lindholm (28) celebrates with left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals. (Nick Wass/AP)

You can hear it in his singing voice, and see it in his grin.

There’s a lot more to Johnny Gaudreau than he has generally allowed the world to see.

However, as a series of recent radio spots voiced by the Flames winger can attest, he has really started to open up this year.

He’s offering up more personality in his media availabilities too, adding more smiles and colourful anecdotes than ever before.

His post-game play-by-play of an Elias Lindholm goal earlier this year, in which referred to a check as “sending the defenceman back to the gym,” had Lindholm, and all those watching, in stitches.

But don’t take our word for it, take that of his teammates.

In an informal poll by Sportsnet, asking players who they felt was the team’s Most Interesting Man, Gaudreau was the clear winner.

“He’s a quiet guy, and I think a lot of people think he’s crazy, but he’s the most simple guy I’ve ever met in my life,” said his closest teammate, Sean Monahan, when nominating his pal.

“I would say Johnny too,” added Chris Tanev. “He’s very quiet in most situations, and once in a while you get the real Johnny and he comes out of his shell.”

We seem to be seeing more of that, with a radio campaign in which the soft-spoken New Jersey native can be heard signing along to the catchy jingle at the end.

It’s wonderfully folksy, clearly impromptu, and speaks to his increasingly relaxed attitude amidst what projects to be a career year.

On Saturday the 28-year-old all-star scored his 17th goal, an overtime winner that has him seventh in league scoring thanks to a 23-point scoring binge over his last 13 outings. When Monday rolled around, he was named the NHL's third star of the week, coming off a run in which he scored eight points in four games.

If there’s any stress associated with being in the last year of his contract with the Flames, the pending free agent sure isn’t showing it.

Some chalk up his relaxed, new attitude to his summertime marriage to Meredith Morris, a nurse who has moved to Calgary full-time to add further stability and support.

By all accounts, they both love it in Calgary.

As one of several Flames teammates and staffers who attended the wedding at the luxurious Water Works in Philadelphia, Monahan said it meant a lot to be part of the day, noting Gaudreau was “more nervous than he is for a game.”

“We had a little bit of a hiccup,” chuckled Gaudreau of the 260-guest affair, which included teammates and several Flames staffers.

“There was a massive rainstorm and part of our venue got flooded out. It was such a nice day that Saturday they moved the cocktail hour outside and it was even better than it would have been inside.”

He rolled with it, which is exactly what he’s done so well this year.

Through a turbulent, road-heavy schedule that included a 19-day break as Gaudreau and 20 of his teammates contracted Covid, the Hobey Baker winner has pieced together the most consistent, impactful and prolific season of his eight-year NHL career.

“A lot of people want to talk about him getting married, but we all grow and every year is another year of experience,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving of his leading scorer, who will head to his sixth all-star game this weekend.

“He has always been engaged. Sometimes he doesn’t show it publicly, but he’s dialled in right now. To me, he’s always been like that.”

Jacob Markstrom instantly chose Gaudreau as the most interesting Flame, based on how little he knows about the elusive star.

“If you could sit down and have an honest conversation for an hour, that would be an interesting one where he can’t just answer with one-word answers and short sentences,” smiled the Flames netminder.

“He’d have to get a little deeper. That would be fun.”

Asked for his vote, Gaudreau pointed towards Andrew Mangiapane.

“He’s just always a goofball, running around the locker room,” he grinned.

“You never know what’s going through his mind. So, he’s a pretty interesting character.”

When told that’s how people see him, Gaudreau understood. What he couldn’t believe was that most players saw that side of him as intriguing.

“Really? That’s shocking,” laughed Gaudreau, when told of his new title.

“I’m pretty quiet in the locker room. I like to joke around with the guys I’m really close with like Monny and guys who have been around for a while. It takes me a little time to warm up to guys sometimes, like new, fresh faces.

“That’s interesting. I’m surprised a lot of guys said that.”

Although he has always fulfilled his responsibilities with the media, Gaudreau acknowledges he isn’t the most talkative fella.

“I’ve been like that all my life,” said Gaudreau.

“In high school I was always the quiet kid who wanted to get through all eight periods and get to the rink and play hockey. I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school, but I was real close to my hockey friends. When I warm up a little bit more I open up a little bit more.”

His radio commercials can attest to that.

“Some of the guys heard it and are giving me a bit of a hard time,” he smiled.

“(The singing) wasn’t supposed to be on the radio. They said, ‘just give it a try,’ so I did, and the next thing I know I hear myself on the radio, singing.

“I should just stick to my day job.”

Flames newbie Blake Coleman also warmed quickly to Gaudreau.

“He’s got his quiet side, but when you open him up he’s a really funny guy,” he said. “A good time, and he’s a good team guy. I could see the interesting part."

“I know he’s got that kind of ‘Where’s Johnny? What’s he doing right now?’ But I enjoy him as a teammate and a friend.”

Gaudreau shrugged off his teammates’ kind words with an aw-shucks grin.

“That’s pretty cool, but I think they just want me to open up a little more and talk a little more,” he said.

“I don’t think they’re actually interested in me.”

The whole city is these days, as everyone has an opinion on whether the pending free agent will be re-signed by the Flames.

If not, the loss would be immense, as he’s never been more consistent and impactful, putting his speed, engagement, creativity and leadership on display nightly.

Unlike the summer, when debates raged over whether he should be traded, few can find faults with anything he’s done this season as a focused and intense competitor at both ends of the ice.

“I think he’s taken a lot of lumps for no good reason,” said Treliving of past criticism.

“Everyone sees his skill and talent, but what people don’t appreciate is how ultra-competitive he is. He wants his team to do well. He’s pissed when we’re not successful.

He loves to win.”

That clearly includes winning over teammates.

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