Gabriel Landeskog: Friend to Anti-Bullying Campaign


 Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog to host anti-bullying event.

“I support Friends, and I support what Friends stands for, which is to make young people’s lives a lot easier.” ~Gabriel Landeskog

All NHL players participate in charity, often at the behest of the team. However, sometimes a player comes across a cause on his own and decides to dedicate his time to it. That’s the case with Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and the Friends group.

Friends is an anti-bullying organization that started in Landeskog’s home country of Sweden in 1997.  Lars Arrhenius, secretary general of Friends, shared a story about how the organization came about:

There was this girl named Sara in a small town in the north of Sweden. She suffered terrible bullying that got especially bad in high school. She didn’t have any friends, no one would talk to her, and they said awful things to her.

One day, one of the boys in her class decided to change that. He started talking to her, asking questions about her. He’d ask her about work assignments. Every morning he made a point of telling her “Hello.” Eventually other students noticed and followed his lead.

It’d be awful convenient to say that boy was Gabriel Landeskog, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, Gabe has supported the initiative since he was a student himself. he used to be involved in going to schools and talking about anti-bullying. Now he’s bringing the idea of inclusion to the hockey world.

In a video put out by Friends, Landeskog talked about some of his experiences:

"“It happens in ice hockey teams. There’s this loneliness and vulnerability because some people feel excluded. I’ve been in teams with players from immigrant backgrounds, and some have had the attitude like ‘Why are they here?’ And it’s not like that — it shouldn’t be. They were as important to the team as anyone else.”"

In fact, Landeskog remarked upon his experience of moving away from Sweden as a teenager (16) to play for the Kitchner Rangers in Canada as well as coming to Colorado:

"“I learned how you function in a new group. For me it came naturally. But we also had guys who didn’t know how to cope with something new.”"

That made me think about Carl Soderberg’s story, how he felt alienated when he first came to the United States and how that inspired him to flee back to Sweden.

As Landeskog points out, this type of situation becomes magnified in the NHL to some extent. After all, a newcomer to the team is trying to take someone’s job. Here’s where leadership — Gabe’s style of leadership — comes into play:

"“That’s when it’s important for the captain and team to find a balance.  Go hard at training, go hard in matches, but back in the locker room you let it go and treat everyone the same, like your brother or sister, mom or dad, or just friends.”"

That must be a tough balance beam to walk when you know some young kid is gunning after your livelihood. It does take a leader with vision to alleviate such a situation.

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Indeed, Gabriel Landeskog considers that type of facilitation just as important as what plays the team is going to use. He feels the language used in the locker room as well as the manner of addressing each other needs to be inclusive. (I’m guessing he means hockey style, not kumbaya style. The Avs aren’t based in Boulder, after all.)

That said, the Friends initiative is meant to have a much wider scope than the hockey locker room, and Gabriel Landeskog is a big part of that. Last year he was named a Global Ambassador for the group as Friends works to go international. The goal is to combat and eradicate bullying across the board.

Landeskog feels proud to be a Global Ambassador:

"“I’m excited to raise awareness and raise attention to what Friends is doing.”"

To that end, Gabriel Landeskog is hosting a fundraiser at Pepsi Center for the Friends Colorado, the local branch of the anti-bullying organization. Landeskog will be signing autographs from 5 to 7 pm Monday, September 14. Tickets for autographs are $10. All proceeds go to Friends Colorado.

For more information about the Friends group, visit

Next: Landeskog: Avs Star of the Week

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