Adam Gaudette respects his elders.
For seven seasons with two different teams, Nate Schmidt has worn the number 88. Gaudette, with just two seasons wearing 88 under his belt, is a little lower in seniority, so when the Canucks traded for the puck-moving defenceman, Gaudette got the word that he would need to change his number.
“Schmidtty and I, we have the same agent, so my agent texted me and said, ‘Hey 8's open, you're gonna give 88 to Schmidtty,’” said Gaudette on Tuesday via Zoom. “I have no problem giving it up because I've always worn 8.”
Gaudette wore 8 at Northeastern University and, with Chris Tanev signing with the Calgary Flames, his old number was available. At least, it was until Gaudette found out that Jordie Benn wanted 8 as well, the number that he wore with the Montreal Canadiens before coming to Vancouver.
“Benner texted me and asked, ‘How much you want for 8?’ I said, 'Oh no,' but I ended up giving it to him,” said Gaudette. “I respect Benner, he's a veteran in the league and I thought it was the right thing to do. And, you know, it's just a number and maybe 96 will bring me some good luck.”
Gaudette landed on 96 because he was born in 1996 — “That was kind of the only number left that had any personal meaning to me” — but serendipitously, it’s also the sum of 88 and 8, the two numbers he had to give up.
It’s also a number with a little bit of history in Vancouver. Pavel Bure switched to 96 for a couple of seasons in honour of the date he came to North America: September 6, 1991. Those two seasons were plagued by injury, so hopefully the number will be luckier for Gaudette than it was for Bure.
Jay Beagle, at least, appears to be aware of the Bure connection.
“Beags texted me and said, 96 is really fast, so I'll be alright,” said Gaudette.
“I want to be like a Patrice Bergeron.”
Gaudette isn’t looking to Bure as an example as he heads into next season. Instead, he has another superstar in mind.
“I want to be like a Patrice Bergeron,” he said. “I grew up watching him play and he’s very good offensively as he is defensively and in the dot. That’s somebody who I want to model my game after and I’m gonna put in that work in the offseason to get myself to that level.”
That’s a lofty goal for Gaudette, but it highlights where he needs the most work in his game. Gaudette was able to contribute offensively last season, particularly on the power play, but his defensive game wasn’t as well developed. As a result, Gaudette was frequently on the bench late in the third period when the game was on the line. That’s something he wants to change.
“When they shorten the bench late in the game, I want to be one of the guys who are out there and playing,” he said. He talked about that on both sides of the puck: when defending a lead but also when the team is down a goal late, noting that with Tyler Toffoli leaving Vancouver, there’s an opportunity for him to step up in those situations.
The big focus — and he recognized it as a cliché — is to get stronger and faster. Gaudette knows that improving his lower body strength and his explosiveness is one of the keys to improving his defensive game.
“I think getting a little quicker and a little stronger is gonna help in that area,” he said. “Instead of being a step behind someone in the D-zone, I’ll be a little bit quicker, a little bit faster, that I can explode to a spot to be there before them...I think filling out, getting a little heavier and a little stronger is going to help more than people realize.”
To that end, Gaudette is living at home with his parents with a gym set up downstairs and a rink down the street. That gives him as close to a normal and easy routine as you can get in the midst of a global pandemic.
“I have a great little routine going here so honestly, it's not really anything out of the normal,” he said. “I feel fortunate, I know a lot of people right now in these times aren't able to say the same.”
“I built my own computer with my wife.”
While he works hard to get to that “Patrice Bergeron” level, Gaudette is also setting aside time for fun and relaxation. In his case, that means video games and his new hobby: Twitch streaming. His Twitch channel, hockey_gaud, currently has around 2,400 followers.
“It’s been great,” said Gaudette. “I think yesterday, I had the most viewers I’ve ever had and I barely even played. I just sat there and talked to a lot of fans and it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s good to give the fans some inside intel on what our lives are like outside of hockey.”
Gaudette’s Twitch stream makes him one of the most accessible players in the NHL for fans, who can follow him and ask him questions directly in the chat, connecting with him in a way they can’t with other players. There are also risks with making yourself that directly accessible — we’ve seen hockey fans harass players on social media many times in the past — but Gaudette says the experience has been entirely positive.
“We don't see too many trolls because I have moderators that kick people out who are acting up in the chat,” he said. “So I don't really deal with any of the negative stuff. There's rules that you have to follow: I don't let anybody trash any players, talk about any other teams or players.”
Gaudette’s wife Micaela has also gotten involved, whether it’s jumping on the stream to play from time to time orr making an even more vital contribution.
“I built my own computer with my wife,” said Gaudette, then corrected himself. “She did most of it, but we built it together. It was a lot of fun, I learned all about different computers and stuff.”
Micaela has a degree in engineering and she eagerly threw herself into the challenge of picking the right parts and putting together the gaming PC as a birthday present for her husband — Gaudette turned 24 on October 3rd — and even put together a story on her Instagram with all the parts she used and the final result.
For those fans worried about Gaudette’s gaming distracting him from his offseason training, he was quick to quash those concerns.
“It’s just something that I found keeps me busy in the offseason,” he said. “I get my stuff done that I need to for hockey and then I have time to have fun on this.”