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Mr. Nice Guy

January 22, 2013

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By Lindsey Willhite || AHL On The Beat Archive

Each time Chicago Wolves right wing Andrew Gordon scores a goal at Allstate Arena, Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy” blares from the loudspeakers. It’s a humorous choice for a goal song because, well, Gordon never deviates from Nice Guy mode.

“You know ‘Gordo,’ ” said veteran American Hockey League defenseman Dean Arsene, Gordon’s first roommate in professional hockey. “He’s a pretty easy-going guy. He’s always positive, always having fun, always in a good mood.”

Before one of the Wolves’ morning skates on their mid-October trip to Abbotsford, B. C., Gordon amused himself and his teammates by balancing the end of his hockey stick on his chin and keeping it aloft for several seconds. While skating around on the ice.

The 27-year-old Porters Lake, Nova Scotia native – who has produced 11 goals and 19 points in 33 games through Jan. 21—has a passion for life that extends in unpredictable directions. And when the Wolves alternate captain does latch on to a topic, he isn’t afraid to express his interest via Twitter (@AndrewGordon10).

One sample from August: “The guy who will be renting my place moves in at 9am. Maybe I should have been packing instead of youtube-ing clips of pet pot belly pigs.” Really? Potbelly pigs?

“I’m allergic to dogs, but I went through a phase this summer where I wanted a pet really bad,” Gordon said with a laugh.

“Potbelly pigs became a small fixation of mine. So I did research online and watched some pet videos and how to train them. They’re pretty remarkable little animals, but I definitely won’t be getting one any time soon. Like I say, it was a minor fixation. It was something to keep me away from doing responsible things.”

That attitude might explain another one of Gordon’s tweets during offseason downtime: “When my hockey career is over I want a job at the zoo wearing a giant panda costume feeding baby pandas. Maybe the 2nd best job ever.”

Gordon let out another long laugh upon hearing his words read back to him.

“Well, I was watching some Discovery Channel, and there were some guys dressed up as giant pandas who would go in there and try to make baby pandas feel more comfortable when they were eating,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what the deal is, but cuddling a baby panda seems like the second-best job that would be out there. I’ve always been an animal lover, a zoo lover. It just seemed appropriate at the time.”

Why did Gordon label it the second-best job in the world? Because he already has the best job in the world –and he knows it. Gordon is the guy who shows up for practice early and stays late because he loves everything about the sport.

He’s the guy whose 4.8 percent body fat ranks as the lowest on the team, no small feat with his 6-foot, 198-pound physique when there are wiry guys like Eddie Lack on the roster. He’s the guy who’s as serious about his craft as he’s unserious about everything else.

“I have a lot to smile about,” Gordon said. “It’s something that not many people can say; I love going to work every day. Playing hockey for a living is a gift. If I didn’t respect it, then I would be doing everybody else who actually works hard for their living a disservice.

“I’m an adult. I play a game for a living and that’s something I can never take for granted.”

Gordon, a sixth-year pro who has 49 National Hockey League games and 3 NHL goals on his resume, gives credit to the 32-year-old Arsene for teaching him how to be a professional. Gordon left St. Cloud State after three years and joined the Hershey Bears in 2007 as a “black ace,” which meant he served as a practice player for the Bears as they went all the way to the Calder Cup finals.

Arsene, Hershey’s captain, was injured and couldn’t play during the playoffs. So when the Bears hit the road, he’d invite Gordon and a teammate or two over for dinner or take them to a baseball game. After the Cup Finals ended, Arsene asked Gordon if he’d like to live with him and his girlfriend, Alex, the following season. Gordon accepted eagerly.

They developed such a close friendship, Gordon shared emcee duties with Alex’s brother during Dean and Alex’s wedding in 2010. When the Wolves played at Abbotsford in October, Gordon visited Alex’s parents’ house as both sides of the Arsene family filled the place in order to enjoy his company.

“I really came out of college and was eating frozen pizzas and drinking Diet Pepsi,” Gordon said. “When I started living with Dean, I saw how he was doing it. I came to him and said, ‘Look, I see what I’m doing and I see what you’re doing—and I want that.’ You have to be interested in it.

“That’s one thing about anything in your life, I feel. If you don’t want to change it, you’re never going to. You’ll always revert back to the way you are and the way you want to be.”

Arsene, now an alternate captain for St. John’s and a mainstay on the IceCaps blue line, remembers taking Gordon to the grocery store. “Jokingly, he’d call it ‘Dinner with Dean,’ ” Arsene said. “Once a week, we’d pick out a recipe from my book and we’d go to the store. I’d show him what to buy and what to eat. He’d write down everything and copy the recipe. I like food and I like cooking, so we always had fun with it.”

Now Gordon counts his daily grocery-store visit among his passions. He gets a kick out of spending 45 minutes roaming a store, even when he has just three items on his list for that night’s dinner. Upon hearing that anecdote, Arsene chuckled knowingly.

“He’s just a good guy, down to earth,” Arsene said. “I thought of him as kind of a little brother to me. He was kind of like Alex’s little brother too.”

With that in mind, an intriguing situation unfolded last March within the Wolves family. Right about the time Gordon suffered a season-ending lower-body injury, rookie defenseman Brad Hunt joined the squad shortly after his career ended at Bemidji State University. Gordon and Hunt became roommates at the Wolves team hotel and they hit it off.

“The boys jokingly call Brad Hunt my son,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I drove him to practice every day. I was cooking meals for him in the hotel.”

Hunt tried to protest occasionally and offered to take turns in the kitchen, but Gordon would have none of it. Hunt was still in the midst of wrapping up his final classes at Bemidji State, so Gordon would suggest that Hunt study while he prepared the meals and juices.

“I think my favorite meal of his was the salmon,” Hunt said. “And he always had tons of vegetables. He loves his vegetables. It was great. I loved him for that. It brought me really close to him for the six weeks that I was there.”

Hunt, who took to calling Gordon “Pops,” sent him a “Happy Father’s Day” text in June.

“It was totally natural for him,” Hunt said. “He wasn’t trying to do anything to impress anybody. It was just the type of guy that he is. Just a great person and he wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as can be. He made my time at the end of the season very enjoyable. It was awesome.”

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