This week's Big Question: Who was your idol while growing up?
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: "Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek. Those two guys I watched. I would watch them on 'NHL Power Week' [a TV program in his native Sweden] every Saturday for a half-hour. There was no Internet. And my brother loved Peter Forsberg, so then we watched the Avalanche in the playoffs a lot."
Jarome Iginla, Los Angeles Kings: "That's an easy one, I had a lot of them. I grew up in St. Albert, which is a city connected to Edmonton, just outside, so the Oilers were the team I watched. Everybody, I mean everybody, obviously loved Gretzky. It was one of those things that you would say, 'Well, yeah, but who else? Of course Gretzky is your favorite, but who else?' Mark Messier, he's from St. Albert too, and I also followed Grant Fuhr, being a minority, being a black player, and I followed as many black players as I could in the NHL too."
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: "Well, there's a few. Freddie Brathwaite was my favorite goalie, playing in Calgary there, that was right when I started playing goal. I got to meet him a couple of times and he was always fun to watch. I was also a huge fan of Curtis Joseph when he was in Edmonton; and then when he went to Toronto, my brother was a die-hard Leafs fan growing up. That gave me a good excuse to cheer along with him. He was another extremely fun guy to watch play. Then when I started getting older and started playing junior, I liked watching [Roberto] Luongo a lot, just being a big guy who was athletic. He wasn't a big blocker, he was extremely athletic, and that's kind of how I saw myself as well. He was someone I watched more to play like him."
Thomas Vanek, Florida Panthers: "I think my biggest idol, on the hockey side of it with my parents' background being Czech, I think we watched a lot of or tried to catch a lot of the Penguins games. I think I always liked Mario Lemieux and [Jaromir] Jagr. It's funny, as a kid, I had posters of Jagr in my room and here I am all of a sudden on the same team with him, so it's pretty incredible and special."
Martin St. Louis, retired: "Clearly, I was a big Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux [fan], but for me, the one that hit home was Mats Naslund for the Montreal Canadiens. He was the smallest player on the Canadiens and wore No. 26. He was my idol. I wanted to be Mats Naslund -- no doubt. He was small [5-foot-7], and that's why I wore No. 26."
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild: "There are lots obviously, but if I've got to pick one, probably [Teemu] Selanne's rookie season was when I was around 10 years old. It's probably the time you're starting to realize more and more. That was pretty cool."
Reid Duke, Vegas Golden Knights: "My role model was definitely my dad. He was always my coach growing up. He was always the guy that was up at 5:30, running me to my practice with 30-below weather. He taught me everything that I knew as a kid, and I can't thank him enough for everything that he's done for me throughout the years."
Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers: "Joe Thornton -- he was captain of the Bruins, he wore 19 and I wore 19 a lot of my life and it was all because of him. I remember getting a signed jersey from him one year, and that was a huge deal. Hall of Famer. For like a year after [Thornton was traded], I pretended to be a Sharks fan. But I couldn't stay up for 10:30 games."
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers: "My original favorite player was Sergei Fedorov. Just the way he played, everything he did was unbelievable. I actually wore 91 when I was a younger kid. I realized that I wasn't going to be Sergei Fedorov and I started idolizing Jarome Iginla. He was kind of that guy when I got into my preteen and teen years, I tried to model my game after. He's such a great player."
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets: "Being a smaller guy, you look like a guy like Marty St. Louis. I've been fortunate to become good friends with him, I got engaged at his house this summer, he threw me an engagement party. Even before him, the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg. Those guys for sure."
David Backes, Boston Bruins: "I watched a lot of the American guys, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight and John LeClair. I was able to live with Tkachuk and play with him for quite a few years, so that was a big bolster to my career to have that tutelage under him, a guy that I looked up to growing up."
Cam Neely, retired: "When we lived in Saskatchewan for 10 years, my dad was in the Air Force and got transferred from a base on Vancouver Island, and the bulk of the games we were able to catch on 'Hockey Night in Canada' were either Montreal or Toronto, so my dad was a huge Toronto fan, so I became a Toronto fan and Darryl Sittler was probably my favorite player. Then at 11, when we moved out to British Columbia, eventually Stan Smyl became my favorite player."
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars: "Steve Yzerman was the guy I always grew up liking and watching. It was pretty surreal at my draft actually here in L.A. I was friends with Christian Thomas, so [I looked up to] Stumpy [former NHLer Steve Thomas, Christian's dad] and Yzerman, and Christian was in my draft. So Yzerman was with us the whole weekend and at my draft day ... so that was pretty cool."
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets: "Nicklas Lidstrom was the guy that I looked up to. But there are a lot of great defensemen. Chris Pronger was another guy who was awesome for kids to watch. Just their smarts for the game. Lidstrom never really overpowered anybody with his strength, but his stick was always good. Stick-on-puck is so important, even in today's game. And then offensively just making the right play all the time. His reads were pretty perfect up there."
Brian Boucher, retired: "Patrick Roy. I was a big Canadiens fan. My mom and dad are from outside of Montreal, so I was brainwashed to be a Canadiens fan. He was my hero. I had posters of him all over my room. I wasn't a Bruins fan. I didn't like the Bruins. I had Reggie Lemelin as my first goalie coach in the NHL and I told him that when I was drafted by the Flyers. I said, 'Reggie, I've got to be honest with you: I hated your guts as a kid.' He loved it. He beat the Canadiens. He was the first guy to beat the Canadiens in a long time [in 1988], and that pump with the helmet, oh, it drove me nuts. Patrick was my guy."
Frans Nielsen, Detroit Red Wings: "As a young, young kid, first it was Brett Hull because we were both wearing 16, so he became my favorite player. When I got a little older, I became a Peter Forsberg guy. I always liked him. And then, even later on, once I turned, like, 18, my first years in Sweden, it kind of became [Henrik] Zetterberg. So it's very special to get to play with 'Z' now, since I looked up to him for so many years."
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: "For me, I kind of had more than one. Martin Brodeur, for sure. I loved watching Cujo [Curtis Joseph] in Edmonton when I was there. I was lucky enough to be able to witness a lot of games in Edmonton when I lived there. And then my parents, really. I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for them."
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs: "Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, they were at the top of the league for a long time. They're the ones you saw on the highlight tapes when we'd get them on VHS back then. In Denmark growing up, the Internet wasn't a big thing at the time yet, we didn't get many games on TV, so the VHS tapes are what we got. We'd get highlight tapes and watch them. I remember trying to get a hold of the Stanley Cup finals games. I remember watching [Nikolai] Khabibulin with Tampa [in 2004]. That was cool."
Ron Hainsey, Pittsburgh Penguins: "A bunch of the Whalers. My grandparents had Whaler season tickets at the start. So from that early Whalers team on, '84, '85, the Francises, the Dineens, the Samuelssons, those guys got traded later, but those were the guys when I was 4, 5, 6, were all there. Mike Liut was the goalie. All those guys. I could go on and on. They were all my first hockey influences, for sure."
Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild: "My dad was up there. He wore No. 12. I did as a kid, and then I remember watching him play with his buddies in the beer league or whatever it was. ... So he was probably No. 1. And then after that, once I started to know the NHL, it would be Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic. Two guys that I loved to watch as a kid. Joe, as I got a little older ... for me as a young guy watching, he would score huge, clutch goals and he would be just like, he expected it to happen and it did. And it continued over his whole career. He's a clutch player that was fun to watch and [had a] great shot and he just looked like he was always in control. I wasn't always like that. It's hard to try and be like that. ... He's one of those players I always enjoyed watching growing up and then playing against him and then playing with him at the Olympics. It was awesome. I got a picture with him. I tried not to be too 'Holy cow, that's Joe Sakic,' but I've thought that many times."
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes: "I think my parents and my older siblings, they were big role models for me. Hockey-wise, someone that had a really big impact on me was a minor hockey coach I had named Billy Bowler. He actually played in the Ontario Hockey League. He had a pretty successful career in that league. He's probably been one of the bigger influences on me from a hockey standpoint. As a fan, growing up a Leafs fan, I was a Mats Sundin fan. I liked watching him."
Nick Holden, New York Rangers: "For some reason, and I still don't know why, I loved the Detroit Red Wings. I loved Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman -- those were my two favorite players. I don't really know why, but those were the guys on the Red Wings that I liked and obviously they had good teams with the Stanley Cups. Lidstrom was obviously the best defenseman at the time, and just the way he played the game ... I liked the way he played the game."
Darren Pang, retired: "My idol growing up was Rogie Vachon. ... I was a big Montreal Canadien fan. When he was traded in ... '71 to L.A., I just followed his career from Montreal to L.A. He was the best goalie probably for 10 years that nobody talked enough about. Being a smaller goalie, he was inspirational because he did so many different things. He had a good glove. He would poke check. He would surprise the shooter. He would two-pad stack. He was everything I wanted to be. My dad brought me to a Canada Cup game in 1976 at the Montreal Forum. Canada was playing, I think playing Sweden if I'm not mistaken, and Rogie was playing and it was the first time I saw him live. And I was just so incredibly motivated. Amazing how it helps when you see your idol live. So I was a huge, huge Rogie fan. In fact, when he ... signed with the Red Wings as a UFA, he wore No. 40, which people would kind of forget because nobody wore No. 40. ... When I got a chance to wear No. 40 with the Chicago Blackhawks, that was the number that I got to have eventually and that was because of Rogie."
-- Scott Burnside, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald