The Johnny Gaudreau story has everyone cheering for him. Especially Theo Fleury.
Gaudreua is the Calgary Flames rookie forward. He is a skating highlight reel, which is improbable given his diminutive size. Everyone agrees that his official listing of 5'9" and 150lbs is very generous.
The NHL is a land of giants, yet Gaudreau continues to show he, too, belongs in the NHL. He has become a fan favorite, electrifying crowds just like when he starred at Boston College where he won the Hobey Baker Award in 2014 as the top player in the NCAA and earning the nickname Johnny Hockey.
One of his biggest fans is Theo Fleury - a man who knows very well what Gaudreau is attempting to do. 25 years ago it was the pint-sized Fleury (5'6" and 180lbs) who broke in with the Flames and forever becoming a fan favorite.
George Johnson of the Calgary Herald recently caught up with Fleury for his take on the Johnny Hockey show.
Count Theo Fleury among the Johnny Hockey disciples.
“I mean,” he asks incredulously, “how can you not be cheering for him? He’s the most talked about player the Flames have had in a long time, right?
“He’s got people excited again. He’s fun to watch. And the Flames are fun to watch. He’s got great vision, obviously. And great patience. He doesn’t panic and just throw the puck away. He makes plays that more seasoned guys usually make. He’s so quick. And he can do things in small spaces that big players absolutely cannot do. That’s what makes him special."
Size and hockey ability is where the comparison between Gaudreau and Fleury ends, though. Fleury excelled as a bubbling volcano of a hockey player, always about to erupt and cause anarchy. He excelled that way. But Fleury sees Gaudreau excelling in a different way, comparing him to another star from the past.
"He’s figured out pretty quickly how to play at that level. As a small player, you have to understand how to get room on the ice. And he has.
In similarity, I see a guy who I played against most of my career, Cliff Ronning. Same kind of players. Small but really skilled.
Cliffie almost ended up with 1,000 points in the NHL. Pretty good, right? If Johnny goes on to have a career like that, it’d be fantastic.”