‘Guy Smiley’ brings attitude to U

Michael Rand

Two things to know about Gophers hockey player Brett Abrahamson: (1) He, like most athletes, enjoys playing in games much more than practicing. (2) He, unlike most athletes, has a mother willing to portray a character from a Scandinavian joke in front of his teammates.
The former means that Abrahamson, a junior, is enjoying this season a lot more than previous ones. After playing a total of three games his first two years, the Oakdale, Minn., native has played in 21 this season.
The latter is one of the reasons teammate, roommate and good friend, Dan Hendrickson, blurted out the word “unique” when first questioned about Abrahamson. That’s why, even though he leads the team in plus-minus rating (plus-16), he can’t be measured solely by statistics.
“The first time I met him,” Hendrickson recalls, “I said, ‘Who is this guy’ — and it was in a foul way. I thought he was a little too loopy. But it’s for that same reason now that I love him.”
Self-described as “adventurous” and “kind of a joker in school,” Abrahamson almost always has a smile on his face — a trait he got from his parents, Orice and Sylvia. Abrahamson said people used to call him “Guy Smiley” as a kid, a name given to a funny little character from Sesame Street.
Both of his parents — who are now divorced — teach elementary school. Sylvia teaches fifth grade and Orice teaches sixth.
“I’m not going to be a teacher,” Abrahamson said. “People always ask me that, and I tell them, ‘no’. I don’t think I could handle all the kids.”
In addition to teaching, Sylvia performs a professional comedy act occasionally, acting as “Lena” from a series of Norwegian “Ole and Lena” jokes.
She performs at birthday parties and similar functions, Abrahamson said. And, last weekend in North Dakota, she did the act for the Gophers hockey team.
“I think Abe went into it a little skeptical, but it was hilarious,” Hendrickson said.
Abrahamson admits he was nervous — but only because he wanted his mom to do a good job and for his teammates to have a good time.
“Sometimes it’s more fun for me to see other people happy than it is for me to be happy,” he said.
Occasionally, however, he’s a little too happy in practice. His free-spirited nature doesn’t always fit into a whistle-to-whistle schedule.
Coaches have to yell at him, he said, in order to regain his attention.
“Sometimes my mind wanders in practice,” Abrahamson said. “They might be explaining something, and I’ll be off in my own little world shooting the puck around.”
But focus hasn’t been a problem in games. Abrahamson sat and watched for three seasons, including a redshirt year. When defenseman Brian LaFleur injured his shoulder on Dec. 27 this season, Abrahamson wasn’t about to waste his big chance.
He had played in 10 games prior to LaFleur’s injury, but he had been in and out of the lineup at both defenseman and forward. The past 11 games marked his first chance to play defense on a consistent basis.
“This year has been great,” Abrahamson said. “There’s nothing like playing. Just practicing gets kind of old.”
This weekend’s series against Northern Michigan marks LaFleur’s return to the lineup — something that worried Abrahamson a little. He wasn’t sure where he would fit in, but he was staying optimistic.
“The team comes first,” he said on Wednesday.
The following day, he saw his number on the defensive line chart for Friday’s game. Quite simply, he was elated.
Gophers coach Doug Woog seemingly sweat the decision out a little less.
“I don’t think you can look at the past month and say he’s our seventh defenseman,” Woog said. “I respect him a lot. There are guys you’re pulling for just a little extra because of their attitude.”
After three years of being the odd man out, Abrahamson is finally getting a little luck to roll his way.
“Maybe I’ve got a horseshoe in my breezers,” he said.
That last statement may sound a bit peculiar, but then again, so is Abrahamson.