There are some people in life that you just want to see be successful.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is one of those people.
Off the ice, Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a genuine, polite and humble ambassador for the Sena-tors. He is always quick to offer his services for charity events, always takes time to meet with local fans around the city and has a genuine pride in playing for the team he grew up cheering for as a young boy from Gatineau.
We had a chance to speak with the newly re-signed Pageau about the incredible 2017 playoff run and much more as he prepares for the upcoming 2017-2018 season:
- We have to start with your incredible 4 goal game during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Rangers. What did it feel like watching that puck go in the net and hearing your hometown fans erupt, after you scored one of the biggest goals in the history of the Ottawa Senators franchise? Wow, what a feeling that was—hearing the fans, seeing my teammates with their big smiles skating towards me, winning the game—I was really happy. When I look back at it today, I can only remember closing my eyes and shooting the puck as hard as I could; I will definitely remember that night for the rest of my life.
- Can you compare the feeling you felt after that game to the feeling back in 2013 when you scored your first NHL goal against one of the best goalies of all-time, Martin Brodeur? Who was the first person you called? My first goal wasn’t a game winner, so it’s a different feeling, but I can say they both brought special feelings. Scoring your first NHL goal is something that every kid dreams about. After that goal, I had about 100 text messages. I called one of my best buddies from back home to tell him how it happened, but he had already seen it, so the surprise was ruined!
- You are #2 all-time in Ottawa Senators history—behind only Daniel Alfredsson—for Playoff Goals Per Game Played. Incredibly, you are currently ranked 116th out of all NHL players in history with 343 goals per NHL playoff game in your career to date. To give that a little context, you are right behind Jeremy Roenick and just ahead of NHL greats like Doug Gilmour, Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne on that list. What is it about the NHL playoffs that you enjoy the most, and do you find that there is a much different style of play in the playoffs versus the regular season? Yes, the season is hard, but in the playoffs, it’s harder. You are facing the same team, but the rivalry between the two teams intensifies and so does the competition. It reminds me a lot of playing in tournaments when you are younger. They are intense, but they’re always fun.
- Can you describe what it feels like for you, as a native of the National Capital Region, to play for the Ottawa Senators and your hometown team during the Stanley Cup playoffs? It’s awesome to be part of it and to feel the city behind you. The 2017 playoffs reminded me of what great accomplishments we achieved last season. There’s no better feeling!
- Who were some of your favourite Senators players when you were a kid? On that note, did being a fan and a kid looking up to NHL players make you enjoy getting to meet young kids who look up to you the same way you used to look up to players 10-15 years ago? Alfy was my favorite Sens player growing up and I had the chance to skate with him once. Later, I had the chance to play with him. Today, one of my favorite things to do is meet with kids, to see their smiles and excitement for the game and being able to answer some of their questions. As a kid, I would have loved to have the chance to spend time and chat with an NHL player.
- How does it feel to hear 19,500 fans singing your name as they do on many occasions at the Canadian Tire Centre? Were you surprised the first time that you heard them chant “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau?” I was definitely surprised the first time it happened and today, it’s such a hard feeling to explain. Knowing that everyone is behind me gives me lots of motivation and it also gives me that boost of energy when I sometimes need it!
- It has been written that you were a fan of Claude Giroux growing up, and you apparently did not want to wear #28 (the number that he wore with the Olympiques) out of respect to him when you arrived at training camp in junior. What was it like playing your first NHL game against him in Philadelphia, and what is it about his game that you respect the most? Yes, it’s true that I didn’t want to take his number because of the respect I had for him, and because the shoes would have been too big to fill after a good player like him wore the number. His biggest strength to me is that he competes every time he is on the ice. That makes him one of the best today in the NHL.
- What player gave you the best advice when you started your career? Is there someone that was very supportive to you when you were first starting out? I would say Erik Karlsson; he is the player that helped me the most. There are a lot of teammates that I’m grateful for and that have helped me through my career, but he is the one that made me feel important for the team and gave me that extra motivation to stay with the big team.
- What role did your parents and family play in your hockey career as a kid growing up? I think the best part about my parents and family is that they never forced me to play hockey. It was always my passion and I have never felt pushed playing it. I remem-ber them supporting me, bringing me to the arena at 6:00 AM, and even on the ice outside at 7:00AM before going to work, just to support me.
- What are some of your favourite places to go in the city to eat? Any restaurants you would recommend to someone coming to Ottawa for the first time? We are lucky to have plenty of good restaurants in Otta-wa! I really like Italian food. If you are downtown, I would suggest going to Little Italy to try out Giovanni’s, but if you are in the west end, Napoli’s is also really good! My favourite sushi spot is downtown in the ByWard Market and it’s called Wasabi. My favorite steakhouse is across the river (Gatineau) and is called Sterling. If it’s your cheat day, stay in Gatineau and have the best poutine in town at Le Foubrac.
- What is the best thing about living in Ottawa? Living in Ottawa gives me the chance to be close with my fiancée, all our family, our friends and all of the great people we have met through so many years, all year long.
- Which one of your teammates spends too much time on social media taking selfies? Mike Hoffman – go check out his Instagram stories: @mhoffy68.
- Which of your teammates has the worst taste in music? Kyle Turris.
- Who on the team has the worst jokes? Chris Wideman has one bad joke every day.
- Who is the funniest guy on your team? Freddy Claesson.
- Who is the best dressed, and who is someone that really needs to stepup his fashion game? Best: Karlsson – Worst: Turris.
- What is the best movie you’ve seen recently? Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.
- What city is your favourite to visit on the road, and why? L.A – the weather is always nice; great city to visit and some-times you get to see and meet actors.
- Tell us a little about what Marc Methot was like as a team-mate and person over your career. What will you miss about him the most on the team this year? He was first and foremost a great teammate and a hard player to play against, for sure. Off the ice, he was funny, but also a good leader. He helped me a lot to fit in with the group the first year I came to the team because I am French and he was too. So, he made it easier for me!
- What would it mean to you to win a Stanley Cup for your hometown, and does coming that close last season give you extra motivation going into the upcoming 2017-2018 season? After the playoffs of 2017, the motivation will be easier for the upcoming season. We now know how hard it is to get there, and know all the sacrifices we will need to make to get there again and win. Obviously winning is our goal and it would mean everything for our city! Fans of Ottawa have been awe-some and we all deserve to win.
- You were thought to possibly be too small to be successful in the NHL, drafted with the 96th pick in the 2011 Draft. However, you already are the 19th highest scorer out of your entire draft class, plus you play an excellent two-way game, and are one of the top playoff performers in the League. What advice do you have for young players who might hear the same things you did? I would start by telling them that whatever size you are, what-ever ability you have, and you have a goal and believe in it, if there are negative comments against you, turn around and try to prove them wrong. You can also take these comments constructively and work on whatever you can to be better! Coaches are there to help you get better. For me, I wanted to prove everyone wrong by giving my best every day and to show that being small doesn’t change anything!
Photography by Tina Picard