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Elias Pettersson on J.T. Miller: 'We’ve had our differences…'

"...but he’s a teammate that I respect."
Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson relaxes on the beach in Florida while talking to Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek for the 32 Thoughts podcast.

It was a busy All-Star break for Elias Pettersson, as he represented the Vancouver Canucks at the Skills Competition, winning the Hardest Shot event, then scored three goals — two that counted — for the Pacific Division in the All-Star Game.

Even when he got a chance to relax on the beach, Pettersson couldn’t find a moment’s rest, as he was interviewed by Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek for Sportsnet’s “32 Thoughts” podcast. 

During the interview, Friedman brought up J.T. Miller and whether he and Pettersson have a good relationship.

“It’s good,” said Pettersson. “I mean, we’ve had our differences, maybe in some games, but he’s a teammate that I respect. He’s someone I like to play hockey with. There’s a lot of speculation, obviously — a lot — but he’s a teammate I respect…It’s not an issue.”

Asked to describe Miller, Pettersson said, “He wants to win so bad and sometimes he maybe gets too hotheaded, if that’s the right word. He cares a lot and just wants to win.”

Teammates don't have to be friends

The reality is that not every player on a team is going to be best of friends. They are essentially just coworkers, albeit coworkers in a very unusually close environment. Miller and Pettersson obviously have very different personalities and interests away from the rink, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good teammates. Ryan Kesler and the Sedins could not have been more different, for example, but they were part of the best team in Canucks history.

When a team is losing, those differences in personality and interests can become wedges. Players start to wonder if the team would be performing better if another player cared more — measuring that “caring” in public displays of emotion — or if another player spent more time working on their game instead of indulging in various hobbies.

Winning is like spackle, smoothing over all sorts of gaps. Sometimes it’s a question of which came first: the losing or the disjointed locker room.

In any case, Pettersson made it clear that he has no issue with Miller and respects him as a teammate. That’s all that is necessary.

"I play video games almost every day."

Pettersson’s time away from the rink is often spent playing video games, which some of the other players on the team like Miller might not get, but isn’t a bad thing.

“I’m a very easy person,” said Pettersson. “I play video games almost every day with my friends back home…We play NHL — like ‘Chel, we play 3-on-3 or sometimes 5-vs-5 — and also I play Call of Duty with my friends back home.”

Pettersson said that in NHL he plays defence — “Otherwise, there’s a lot of goals” — and that his friends are “okay” but he always has a good time playing with them. 

Some Canucks fans have worried that with all of the tumult in Vancouver that Pettersson might not want to stay long term, but Pettersson was quick to say that he loves Vancouver.

“I’m happy. I mean, I love the city, it’s a great place to play,” said Pettersson. “Obviously, the Canucks fans are passionate, which I like, so yeah, I’m happy.”

Assuming Pettersson is here long-term, there’s a lot of thought that he could be the next captain of the Canucks — Horvat cast his vote for him, after all — but Pettersson is in no rush to step into that role. 

“They want me to have more of a leadership role and I’m very happy to hear that,” said Pettersson. “But, for me, I don’t want to stress into anything because it’s not the easiest task to be the captain. I saw Bo firsthand get all those questions after every practice almost.”

Pettersson clarified that he wants to make the right decision about the captaincy, so it’s unlikely something that happens in a hurry. 

"I want to play in the Olympics."

When asked who on the Canucks doesn’t get enough attention, he jokingly said, “Me,” then chuckled before saying that he would have said Horvat before he got traded.

“I think [Luke] Schenn. Now he’s the all-time leader in hits,” said Pettersson — Schenn leads all defencemen in hits since the statistic has been measured. “He’s a veteran but he comes with excitement, working hard every day. He’s a great leader in the room and always brings it.”

One of Pettersson’s answers might cause some controversy but it really shouldn’t. When asked to rank potential accomplishments — Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, World Cup, World Championships — Pettersson ranked the Olympics first.

“I’ll say Olympics first because it’s been going on for years, there’s so much history,” said Pettersson. “I want to play in the Olympics, it’s such a big event. And then I’ll say Stanley Cup after.”

"I wasted a bunch of money."

Finally, Friedman asked about Pettersson’s fashion sense, which has taken a turn towards the casual from his more fashion-forward looks in the past.  

“I’m pretty casual, I like oversized and vintage. Simple stuff,” said Pettersson. “When I moved over, I was all about, ‘I need to buy all the expensive clothes,’ because I thought I was cool when I was doing that. But year two, I realized I grew out of everything…so I wasted a bunch of money on that.

“After that, I just started buying cheap clothes.”