DENVER (CBS4) – When the Colorado Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog team captain, he became the youngest captain in NHL history at age 20. On Sunday, the left winger said he felt good on his first day of practice as the team leader.
“I think a lot of the guys looked really good out there, and it helps when you pack the Family Sports Center too,” Landeskog said, referring to the large turnout of fans at the Avs’ first practice. “It was a lot of fun to see so many people in here and I think we had a pretty good practice.”
Landeskog, from Sweden, spent his younger years playing in his homeland and then was drafted by the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League in 2009. He was then traded to the Kitchener Rangers where he excelled in the two seasons before NHL draft eligibility. He was then drafted second overall by the Avs in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Landeskog became only the fourth captain in team history and will be donning the “C” on his chest when the Avs open up against the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday. As for the shortened season, he said he was happy to see fans pack the practice arena on Sunday after not knowing how they would react to the lengthy NHL lockout.
“It was awesome. I think I speak for all the guys when I say that. That warms our hearts to see that they’re still going to come out here, you know, support us,” he said. “We’re going to play our hearts out for them. We’re trying to have fun out there to show them we’re happy to be back.”
The Avs fans might be back, but it’s not clear how the rest of the league’s fans will react. Landeskog said the NHL now just needs to look forward.
“We’ve gone through what we’ve gone through. I think it’s going to benefit the game in the future. It’s going to benefit fans that the game is going to get better and especially benefit young players coming into the league.”
One of Landeskog’s duties as captain will be getting the team ready for the season in a hurry because of the lockout. He needs to get everybody on the same page if the team hopes for a successful playoff run.
“It’s hard, but I think everyone has done a great job of staying in shape. Everyone looks hungry out there and it looks like they’re having fun. I think we missed it so much, just being around the guys … we’re all looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ve got to gel in a short period of time, but I think (Sunday) was a good start and we just have to build off that and get better.”
There are different thoughts on what kind of teams benefit from a shortened season and Landeskog said it’s hard to generalize on the topic.
“I think it’s up to every single team to make the most of it. I know all the guys in this dressing room; it doesn’t matter if you’re over 30 or if you’re 20 years old, (we’re) still going to give it our best. We know we have one goal this year and that is to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.”
He said as with the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanly Cup last year, all a team has to do is get into the playoffs and anything can happen.
Minnesota Wild officials have said they expect a sellout crowd for the opener on Saturday. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
– By Matthew J. Buettner, CBSDenver.com