If you had your fingers crossed for Joe LaBate, you can uncross them.
When the Vancouver Canucks visited the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this week, LaBate’s dad Joe and brother Peter were in attendance. Bad news: LaBate wasn’t in the line-up. Good news: he was allowed to watch the game in the stands with his family.
“It’s not how I had imagined things going down,” laughed LaBate. “But of all the places to watch a game as a fan, Chicago is pretty awesome. It was nice to spend some time with them at least.
“Still, I’m hoping things work out differently next game.”
Correction – LaBate is reaaaaaaally hoping things work out differently Saturday when the Canucks face the Wild in Minnesota. And they have. Coach confirmed pre-game LaBate will play.
The 23-year-old forward, who has played 10 NHL games this season after making his Canucks debut last November, was born in Burnsville, Minnesota, 15-minutes south of downtown St. Paul. He moved to Eagan, MN, 15-minutes southeast of downtown, when he was young and grew up cheering on the Wild.
He would come to a few Wild games every year and was a Marian Gaborik fan, so much so that he still has a collectable Gaborik bobblehead from when he was young. LaBate has a lot of fond memories of the Xcel Energy Center and he’s looking to add the biggest yet.
“This means a lot to me. To be up here playing against the best players in the world trying to help the Canucks win, and showing what I can bring to the line-up, it’s a dream come true. Playing a game here makes it that much cooler.”
At rough estimate LaBate figures he’ll have as many as 20 people supporting him in his home debut, including Joe Sr. and his wife Donna, mom Karen, brother Peter, sister Noel, nephew Christian and niece Ginevieve. “A bunch of buddies too, I’m trying to figure out who is around, because some guys are gone for spring break right now. I need to figure out how many tickets we need.”
Tickets LaBate is on the hook for.
It’s an unwritten NHL rule – one that may extend to other sports, I’m not sure – that when a player plays their first pro game in their hometown (or as nearby as possible) and family and friends come to watch, the player hands over their credit card to cover the tickets.
LaBate will carry on said tradition.
“If you’d have asked me growing up how much money I’d spend to play in an NHL game against the Wild, with my friends and family in attendance, I would have said a lot,” laughed LaBate.
“Now that it’s here, I hope it’s not too too much!”
Either way, it’s a small price to pay to play in such a meaningful game.
Derek Jory – @NoJoryous