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Jean-Gabriel Pageau: Ottawa’s little sparkplug with the big heart

Local hero Jean-Gabriel Pageau overcame his lack of size and grew into a big role with the Ottawa Senators.

NEWARK, NJ — Jean-Gabriel Pageau is being watched. As the local product on the Ottawa Senators, raised across the Rivière des Outaouais in Gatineau, this happens often. Fans chant his last name at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, matching the rhythms to the olé-olé-olé of soccer matches. They stop him on the sidewalk and say hello. He was a legend by his third NHL playoff game, between romping a rival, notching a hat trick, and losing one lateral incisor in a bloody mess. LinemateCurtis Lazar describes Pageau’s popularity like this: “Everyone loves him, the little French-Canadian hometown guy.”

At this moment, though, the audience is relatively small, condensed to a few fellow Senators inside the visiting locker room at Prudential Center. All of them are eyeing Pageau, who is conducting an interview at his stall, and all are wearing smug smiles. As a 23-year-old center on the league’s fifth-youngest team, Pageau takes plenty of good-natured heat like this on a regular basis. But he was also shirtless after practice Wednesday afternoon. And he was just asked to explain the tattoos covering his right arm—angel wings near the shoulders, a skull down the forearm, a dove in the middle.

“He’s in a biker gang,” forward Chris Neil chirps from near the door.

“The Gatineau biker gang,” defenseman Mark Boroweicki says from one corner.

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“There’s going to be more done,” he says, like a man with a big world ahead of him.