We have seen plenty of examples in celebrity culture where fame and fortune do not necessarily force maturity upon a young person.
A couple of exceptions have been recent players on B.C. pro sports teams. Alphonso Davies, only 18, exuded class and composure with the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer before his big pay day with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
Elias Pettersson is doing the same as the Vancouver Canucks skate in their 50th training camp in franchise history at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
His signing of a tiny No. 40 Canucks jersey, adorned by a baby at the Memorial Centre, has taken on a life of its own as a brightener in worldwide media reports.
At only 20, the Swede seems to instinctively understand the sporting and cultural roles the Canucks play in this province, and into which he has been suddenly thrust as the future face of the franchise from Duncan to Dawson Creek and Sooke to Salmo.
Signing autographs and interacting with fans is all part and parcel of it.
“That is the least I can do,” said the 2018-19 Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year with 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games.
“They look up to me. The least I can do is spend 15 minutes with them.”
It was more like half an hour of autograph-signing Saturday at the Memorial Centre, after Pettersson scored the first goal in a scrimmage game to lead the White team to victory over the Blue.
But the baby-signing the day before was still a topic of conversation: “I didn’t know what was hanging down. And then I see a dad hanging down his baby. It was kind of fun.”
Considering the province’s hopes is placed on his slim shoulders, it’s interesting that Pettersson comes across as a guy to whom hockey isn’t all-consuming, except when it needs to be.
Then, he will be there, as when his country called last spring and he played for fifth-place Sweden in the 2019 IIHF world championship in Slovakia, scoring three goals and 10 points in eight games. That’s perhaps something of which Canada’s NBA players should take note. But when Pettersson doesn’t need to be front and centre in his sport, he knows how to tune out.
“After the world championships ended, I took two weeks off and did absolutely nothing,” he said.
B.C. hockey fans have dreams that, at some point in his career, Pettersson will lead the Canucks to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Yet he took scant notice of the St. Louis Blues winning their first Stanley Cup because of the time difference.
“I watched some NHL playoff games, but I didn't stay up late [to watch many],” said the Canucks’ 2017 first-round draft pick, taken fifth overall. He remains in many ways just the guy from Ange, 524 kilometres north of the Swedish capital, Stockholm. In Ange, his dad, Torbjorn, was the Zamboni operator at the rink.
“I only talk English when I have to,” Pettersson said.
The Swedes are tight. Fans reported seeing Pettersson and fellow Swede and Canucks forward Loui Eriksson dining at The Local on Wharf Street on Friday night.
As to his summer regime back home, Pettersson listed “running and biking.”
Not that on-ice can be totally ignored for any hockey player when the days grow shorter in late summer: “Then it was time to work out again and prepare for next season.”
Fans might be surprised to learn that Pettersson thinks he needs “a better shot and a better, quicker release.”
That will be news to pundits who have described Pettersson's shot release as among the purest and fastest in many years among young players. But it could be even faster, he figures.
“I want to get better every day,” he said.
Asked about his impressions of Victoria, the Canucks star sophomore said he had heard much about the city and was looking forward to exploring if he got the chance amid a busy on-ice schedule in training camp. Then he deadpanned in that understated Swedish way: “I see it rains here as well as Vancouver.”
That’s fine by the Island’s many Canucks fans — as long as Pettersson continues raining goals down on the NHL opposition.
The Canucks training camp continues today from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., with a scrimmage beginning at 11:10 a.m., at the Memorial Centre. Admission is $5 with proceeds going to charity. The exhibition game Monday evening between the Canucks and Calgary Flames on Blanshard is sold out.