When Adam Gaudette rang in his 18th birthday at a tattoo parlour in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it marked a simple beginning for a growing canvas.
“Here, I’ll show you,” says the new and refreshingly chatty Toronto Maple Leafs forward.
Gaudette, 25, peels off his team-issued track jacket after an October practice and rolls up his T-shirt sleeves to reveal two impressively tattooed ones.
Star Wars and Batman characters abound in splendid detail. And is that the Canadian fiver on the shoulder of an American?
A simple inscription on his biceps — Prove People Wrong — opened the floodgates for a mosaic.
“Prove People Wrong is a slogan and a little company started by a couple of buddies of mine who are a little bit older that I played with growing up. This [5-foot-7] kid by the name of Cam Brown, he played at U of Maine. He's really small, really undersized,” Gaudettte says.
Brown and his fellow ’93 borns started wearing Livestrong-esque “Prove People Wrong” wristbands around Gaudette’s little hockey community back home in Massachusetts.
“It's just something that kinda stuck with me. I was always kind of somebody who people kind of doubted,” Gaudette explains. “Skinny. Small. Not fast enough. Not a good skater. So, it's kinda something I lived by for a while.”
Not only did the teenager’s parents not object to his ink job, Gaudette’s father went with him to get the work done.
“My dad's got a couple Looney Tunes tattoos, so he couldn't say anything about it. He got them when he was, like, 17,” Gaudette laughs. “But, no, they like him. They think they're cool.”
Once Gaudette got serious about expanding to the full sleeve following his freshman year at Northeastern University, his dad told him which artist to use.
“He’s a really good artist,” says Gaudette, who remains loyal to Jones as he colours up his arms. “I tell him the idea. He does everything, and I just show up. A lot of it's free drawn, too.
“I trust him. I know what he's about. He sees stuff that I don't, so I just get the initial pictures of what I like, and then he’ll map it out and stencil it in.”
Here, in his (lightly edited) words, Star Wars stan Gaudette digs into his ink. Once the sleeves are complete, the chest is next.
“This was the second one I got: the old $5 Canadian bill. And then you see the Boston Citgo sign converging with the Prudential Center and the Old State House. I grew up coming up here (to Canada) since I was young, playing in a bunch of Silver Sticks, the Q (Quebec International Pee-Wee) and all those tournaments. My family, a couple generations ago, came down from Quebec, so my dad's side of the family is very French-Canadian. I just figured it'd be a cool thing playing in the Boston area — having the Canadian culture in front of the city of Boston.”
“The Death Star and Millennium Falcon, Ryan free-drew all that with a Sharpie and then went in with needles. Each of them was, like, five hours long — probably five or six sessions. But I enjoy going to hang out with him in the chair for a couple hours. Shut the brain off for a bit and just relax. It doesn't hurt too bad either. The more I've gotten, the less pain I feel. You’re just kind of releasing all the endorphins, and it feels good."
“Favourite Star Wars movie? Revenge of the Sith. Least favourite? Probably one of the newer ones. I wouldn't say I dislike any of them. I'd say The Force Awakens. I think the last one, The Rise of Skywalker, is neat. And they bring back Han Solo and Luke and Leia in The Last Jedi.
“A lot of people, especially nowadays, don't really like the old, old ones, but I appreciate them. My wife, Michaela, laughs at them because they're so corny and stuff. And I'm like, ‘Hey, I appreciate it. It's not like the CGI you see today, so you know what you're gonna get.’ ”
“I like Star Wars better than Batman, but The Dark Knight is my favourite movie of all time. I just like the Heath Ledger Joker. Awesome. But I'm a huge Batman guy, too. Christian Bale is probably my Batman. The 2022 Batman was good. I like ’em all. I like the cartoons, the comics. There's a lot of stories around these worlds that you don't see if you only watch the movies. There’s a lot nerdy extra stuff that you can get into.”