Seemingly out of nowhere, a narrative has arisen that would suggest Vancouver Canucks’ Swedish sensation Elias Pettersson has an attitude problem. I’m here to tell you he doesn’t.
This story emerged over the All-Star break. Whether that’s a result of there not being enough to talk about for some folks in the Vancouver Canucks media or they really do believe the things they are saying, is up for debate.
Elias Pettersson does not have an attitude “problem” per se. Does he have a unique personality? Sure. Is his personality problematic in any way, shape, or form? No, it’s not. In fact, his “attitude” simply revolves around a pure love for the game of hockey.
Allow me to provide some context for those that don’t already know the story. Without naming names, two relatively well-known podcast hosts had a discussion on their show. The discussion revolved around the idea that Pettersson has a prickly personality, and that he is actively being worked with to avoid a “really embarrassing situation for the organization.”
The two went back and forth, with one of them saying, “he is a prickly dude. No, he really is, and like, for a 20-year-old to do that, maybe play more than 40 games before you act like you belong in the Hall of Fame. But I think what it speaks to in the larger sense is the fire he’s got, and that shows up on the ice.”
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I’m not going to give my personal opinion on the comments, but you can view more of the conversation here. All I will say is that I do not think Pettersson’s personality is a problem by any means.
Pettersson’s English obviously isn’t great. He’s new to the language and is learning how the media works in North America.
I saw this comment on YouTube from someone who claims to have seen and understood Pettersson’s interviews when he was in the Swedish Hockey League.
Do with that what you will, but nonetheless, there is clearly a language barrier when it comes to Pettersson’s interviews.
He has never refused to face the media yet but has refused to answer some rather empty-headed questions. Perhaps the best example of this breed of question was when Pettersson was preparing to return from the first injury of his NHL career. A local reporter asked him of the heavy body slam that caused him to miss five games with a concussion, “doesn’t make you want to go back home, right?”
Thus, the “death stare” or the “alien death stare” as some like to call it, was born. If you haven’t seen the video yet, I urge you to watch it here. Pettersson not only doesn’t give the reporter an answer, but he also avoids looking at him, “death staring” into the crowd of reporters, waiting for the media scrum to be over. I’ll take that as a no.
Apparently, the organization doesn’t like the death stare.
Amidst all this talk regarding Pettersson’s personality, The Athletic’s Jason Botchford puts it bluntly: “You know what goes underreported, people ask [expletive] questions. A lot. Including me.”
How often do we see players in media scrums get asked the same old questions and give the same, tired answers? Is it really a bad thing that Elias Pettersson gives answers that don’t make people want to change the channel?
Pettersson gives interesting answers to some pretty uninteresting questions. Let’s take a look at the interview after Pettersson’s first career hat-trick in a memorable game against the Ottawa Senators, that saw him pot the overtime winner to cap off his three-goal effort.
A reporter asked Pettersson if he ever would have thought he’d have this much success at the NHL level, even in his wildest dreams. Now, before I tell you his response, I’d like us all to think of what a typical answer to this question might look like. Maybe an “I’m just trying to work hard and get better each and every day.” We’ve heard answers that follow this mundane tune countless times before. Now for Petey’s answer.
“If you work hard and believe in something, I think everything is possible. So like this has always been my dream, what I always been working for, growing up, and now I’m here living my dream.” What a wholesome, honest answer.
After this answer, a reporter followed up by asking what team Pettersson would have dreamt of playing for growing up. Pettersson answered with one simple word. Vancouver. The reporter seemed to laugh off the answer with the assumption that Pettersson felt obliged to say Vancouver as his answer to this question. Which, to an extent, he probably did.
For evidence of this claim, however, Pettersson pointed to the fact that when he was young, he had a t-shirt that read “Vancouver, Canada.” The reporter asked if he’s serious to which Pettersson replies, “Yup. Google it.”
And so we all did.
The simple truth is, Pettersson has grown up playing hockey all his life. His father was the Zamboni driver at the local rink in Ånge, the same place Pettersson first learned to skate.
He has lived his entire life in Sweden and has been on the ice, stick in hand, for the majority of his life. As Pettersson himself said, he would go to school, go free skate at the local rink for two hours, go home to eat dinner, then it was back to the rink for more practice before hitting the hay. He repeated this routine nearly every day.
To say Pettersson loves the game of hockey is an understatement. The game of hockey literally is Pettersson’s life. So when he is now being faced by a crowd of reporters shoving microphones in his face, speaking to him in a language he is still just learning, it’s no wonder that Pettersson has trouble with interviews.
What I personally don’t want to see is a downgraded version of his personality. I want to see him continue to say how he feels and to give honest answers.
In short, Pettersson’s personality is far from being a problem. His teammates absolutely adore him, and much like two fellow Swedes who recently left the team, he leads by example. Everyone on the team sees Pettersson’s level of play, and they want to be better as a result.
Perhaps his interview with Nick Kypreos will tell you what kind of personality Pettersson really possesses. Kypreos asked Pettersson how he feels about going from a relatively unknown player to the face of the Vancouver Canucks.
His response? “It’s a team game. I don’t think I’m better than anyone on the team, I don’t want to get treated different just cause I score more points or anything. I don’t care about that, I want to be treated as everybody else.”
On top of that humble answer, that interview took place just a day after Pettersson suffered his second injury of the season. A player with an attitude problem surely would have requested that interview be either canceled or moved to a later date, but Pettersson stuck it out.
It’s not that he doesn’t like doing interviews or talking to the media, it really just comes down to the fact that Pettersson would much rather be playing hockey than talking about it. It really is as simple as that. It would seem as though he feels that if he’s going to take time to talk to you, he doesn’t want that valuable time to be wasted- because he could just be playing hockey instead.