Whether it is within a family, a sports team or a community at large — culture that lasts throughout generations is timeless and priceless. It is based on certain principles that stand the winds of change. Despite being from completely different generations, with twelve years between them, Andrew Mangiapane and Mark Giordano are two hockey players that have built their careers on similar principles in the city of Calgary, the second Canadian location where we proudly just opened a new Atelier Munro House.
Andrew joined the Calgary Flames in 2016 as a rookie, ten years after Mark made his NHL debut there, and three years into his tenure as the Flames’ undisputed captain and leader of the team. This clearly created an important influence on the career of the former. But, when looking at their individual trajectories, both careers show interesting similarities: each an underdog overcoming significant challenges to get to the NHL in the first place, always playing with a strong will to learn and great respect for the experiences of their seniors, on and off the rink.
In celebration of Atelier Munro House Calgary, we met the duo in their current and former home, to capture them in their curated collections of tailored pieces that show their respective age difference without compromising on sophistication and class. Together we visited some of the most beautiful, weathered locations, showing the rich heritage of this city. As we sat down and spoke some more, we learned about what binds these players that came to maturity in radically changed circumstance, both as hockey players and human beings, and despite currently standing at completely different crossroads ahead of them: with one career approaching full bloom and another having the final goal clearly in sight.
Andrew, we learned about Mark’s background and beginnings when we spoke with him last year. How did you start playing hockey?
A: I started at a very young age, around 3 years old, when my father built a backyard rink at our house in Bolton, Ontario. I must have been 4 or maybe 5 when I started playing on teams. From a young age, I really loved to play.
What was it like to live in Bolton at the time?
A: It was a typical small town, I would say. A few elementary schools, one high school, and a movie theater. My mother worked as a teacher at one of the elementary schools, the school I attended. It was a small community. There wasn’t much going on, but it was great. My father is of Italian descent and my mother is part Scottish, part Polish – with a lot of my family living in the area. Most of my older cousins also played hockey, so I pretty much did what they did.
You continued to play during elementary and middle school and eventually ended up playing Triple-A hockey.
A: I did, which was a little tough for my parents because it is expensive to play hockey in general and Triple-A, in particular. But they saw that I loved the game and saw that I was good at it. So, they invested a lot, both financially and their time. They really helped me with my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I also remember a lot of studying in the car, because we had to drive far when I started playing in the Greater Toronto Area, and that would be the only time I was able to study. Despite my strong interest in hockey, my mother would never let me ease up on my studies. My parents really helped me and my sisters out with everything we wanted to do, a lot.
How would you describe the role hockey played during those years, living with your family in Bolton?
A: It played a huge role. You learn so much from just being part of a team. You learn how to get along, how to talk to each other. It was a lot of fun. I was basically in love with the sport. During my early high school year, I tried to get drafted into the OHL. This is the moment when scouts come to your game. At that time, I had already decided I wanted to make it all the way to the NHL, so the OHL was an important steppingstone. And despite having always been one of the better players on my team, this was also the moment conversations about me being “small” started happening.
You had to bounce back from disappointment at a fairly young age.
A: Yes, it became very clear from a young age that I was being considered too small. Despite my playing. So, I just made it my mission to overcome this perception. And eventually, I finally made it into the OHL as part of the Barrie Colts, after I had participated in their camp as an undrafted player. I did well and they gave me a chance by signing me. That was the first time a team really acknowledged me. That was a very important moment for me. As a result, it made my dream to make it into the NHL a lot more realistic. And it showed me the way forward in dealing with let-down, by working even harder and continuing to believe in myself.
At the time when the Barrie Colts signed me, I had already outlined an alternative way to make it to the NHL by going the academic route. I was already studying for my SATs. I wouldn’t let the rejections bring me down. As there was very little interest in me by any other outside party, my mom was still managing me, so when they gave us the offer, we both were baffled. We couldn’t believe it. It was the very first time anyone from outside our family saw the potential I had.
Mark, last year we touched on the subject of your many years playing and living here in Calgary. Let’s get into the details of that experience some more. When you joined the team, how do you look back at those first years here?
M: When I came in, I was in my early twenties. The captain of the team was Jerome Iginla and other older players were people like Robin Regehr, Rhett Warrener and Craig Conroy – who’s working as the Calgary Flames’ General Manager at the moment. Those guys were older than me and had a lot more experience when I joined. I really looked up to them. When I came into Calgary, I was still a kid in many ways. Trying to make my way living in a different city. Playing on a team where you are trying to solidify your spot.
I really looked up to those guys I mentioned. They were greatly respected players in the NHL and the experience that they shared really helped me. Especially when looking back. Jerome, next to being the captain, was such an easy guy to approach. He always made it a point to come and talk to the younger guys and give them help if they needed that. As I got older and the years went on, I really tried to take a similar approach with younger guys that would join the team after me.
Tell me more about that dynamic.
M: Coming into the locker room as a young guy is intimidating. There is a lot going on. You come into the room, you’re new. Most of the older guys have been established. They have been around for a long time. And there’s the coaches, the general managers. What the older guys do outside of the rink is simple but crucial to make you feel more comfortable: take you out to dinner, invite you to their place, meet their family. Sometimes younger players are even asked to live with the older ones. Learn about the routines in life as a hockey player. The little things: planning your days, learn about nutrition, the whole lifestyle of being a professional hockey player, basically.
And then there’s the element of travel, which is quite prominent in your life as a hockey player, which can get pretty lonely if you don’t stick together as a team. The responsibility lies with the older guys to invite the younger ones into their circle, again taking them out to dinner and all the other things you do when you travel for a game. Staying out of trouble is also a big one. It is extremely important to have good quality leaders and experienced guys on a team to lead the way. It is also crucial to have that support when you make mistakes and are still learning about things. And have people who have made them before you who can put them into perspective. Also, when a player is being criticized, for instance, you need to feel that you have people in your corner. At the end of the season, a team needs to feel as if you are 25 brothers.
The intensity of that kind of time spent together is rare.
M: There’s all different types of characters and relationships within a locker room. But it is impressive when you think about it. I’ve been on a lot of different teams and it’s amazing to see how every time the group came together. I think a lot has to do with compromise, everybody has to accept that there are diverse personalities and attitudes on the team – at the end of the day everyone makes sacrifices because you know it is going to help the team.
Compared to any other professional sport, the level of uncertainty in the NHL seems unparalleled. Both when it comes to the individual trajectories of players, but also considering what it takes for a team to win the league.
As an outsider, to me it feels that everything is always in flux. What are your thoughts on this considering you’ve been in the league for all these years?
M: I think you are right when you say it that way. You have to work very hard to get to the NHL and establish yourself as an NHL player, but that’s really just the beginning. The hardest part is being consistent enough to stay in the league for a long time. And it is hard to always be consistent. For many reasons that also take place outside of the rink. You have to maintain making sacrifices, be disciplined, throughout your life — while you basically also evolve from a kid into an adult. There is no other way. If you don’t improve as a player throughout the years, there will always be another guy who is ready to take your spot. Within your own team.
As a hockey player you’re always dealing with pressure from different directions. You obviously want your team to be successful, but at the same time you are also maintaining yourself as an individual within that team. As a young guy that can be very hard, especially when your psychological resilience isn’t as developed yet. For me, at this point in my career, I have felt pretty much everything a player can feel. I’m not as affected by it anymore. Neither the bad, nor the good. I have become quite balanced. But that has taken me quite some years of ups and downs. As an athlete you need to put the sacrifice in, without necessarily getting results right away. But if you continue to do things over and over again, it is going to pay off. That pretty much feels like a rule of thumb to me at this point.
It is especially easy to lose self-confidence as a teenager. Andrew, when everybody kept telling you that you were simply too small to make it, why didn’t you quit?
A: I genuinely loved the game so much. Quitting would also mean I had to stop playing, and all I wanted to do was play. And there was always my family, supporting me, backing me up, and putting things into perspective. I knew I was already playing well in those years, so the rejections became fuel to become even better. To this day, my drive to get better and learn is one of my strongest attributes. Even then, I believed I would get a chance at one point, and I needed to be ready once that arrived. That was also the message my parents kept telling me.
During those years, my father would also reach out to agencies to represent me as a player. But they all responded like the teams did, stating I was too small. I remained under the radar for quite a long time, because of all this lack of belief in my career.
Was there anyone you could look up to during those years?
A: I always looked up to Martin St. Louis, because of his style of play and partly because he was a smaller player too. The fact that he had made it into the NHL made me believe that I could do it too. I was always studying him and learning about how he played.
What were you like in that period at the Barrie Colts?
A: I was a very quiet and timid person. I didn’t know anyone, so it took me a few months to really adapt to the situation. I was still getting used to the lifestyle of playing hockey every day. It was also the first time I left my parents, living with a billet family. After a slow start, I had a good rookie season, one that could have raised the interest of an NHL team to sign me. Encouraged by the management I had found during that first season, I did go to the draft in Philadelphia, to eventually experience another big let-down, I wasn’t drafted. Once again, I saw players making it, which I felt played lesser hockey compared to what I had done during that season.
I went home, got to work again and the second season with the Barrie Colts was another strong season. This time, the draft was in Florida, I took my whole family there and after so many years of being told I was too small and I wasn’t going to make it, I got drafted by the Calgary Flames. That was a surreal moment in my life. There was no certainty I was going to get drafted that day, so the moment it did happen I was over the moon. It formed the ultimate proof of what I had felt all along: the fact that I hadn’t made it earlier, didn’t mean I wouldn’t make it at all. I knew I was an underdog, but I also knew that my resilience would bring me to this moment.
After you got drafted, your adult life started in Stockton, California.
A: I knew literally nothing about that place. And all of a sudden, I needed to arrange pretty much every element of my life. When I first got to Stockton everything was new, again. When I got to the rink, I was comfortable and happy, learning a lot, but when I would get home, I was a little lost. I had to become a grown up as fast as I could, otherwise I would have been left behind. That worked out quite well and I had another good season in Stockton, which helped me play my best hockey up until that point at the Flames’ summer camp. The first summer I was still super intimidated to be on the ice with guys like Gio. Almost questioning why I was there.
The second year I understood that it was a matter of standing out. You only have a certain number of practices and games to present yourself. So, despite being sent back to Stockton, I knew I had a chance. During the 2017 season somebody got hurt and I was called back up again, and I played my first NHL game. My family and girlfriend, Claudia, also made it to Calgary from Toronto to see that game, which was around New Years, so I got to hang out with them after as well. That was something else. The guy that was deemed “too small”, the underdog, undersized, underrated guy, had finally made it. I remember it like it was yesterday, it was so unbelievable, after all those years.
Mark, how do you look back at the Mark Giordano who was still learning all this in the beginning of your time as a hockey player in Calgary?
M: When I look back, I see a more raw and more emotional version of myself. There was a lot less stability, also when it came to my confidence. I also understand now that the only thing that has helped me evolve out of this was experience. Even in life, not just in sports – you have to see things go well for you, to grow a certain belief. If I could go back and teach myself, I would teach myself how to mentally deal with ups and downs better. Things would affect me way more.
Was there a moment when that confidence really solidified for you?
M: I was named assistant captain first, that was a big moment for me. In a way it really marked a moment in which I truly felt that the organization believed in me as a player and saw that I had the potential to carry a certain responsibility within the team. That eventually resulted in me being named captain. Which was even more important. I think that once a player has played between 300 to 400 games in the NHL, he will hit a certain tipping point. That must have been also around the time when I was named captain.
You also became a father around that time.
M: That is correct. Something really changes once you go home after a game, and you have a child there waiting for you. From that moment on, it becomes easier to forget about certain things that have taken place in the rink. Or it will offer you some much needed perspective on things you might have dwelled on without having children. These are all cliches, that everybody speaks about. But I have experienced them to be very true. The “break” a family offers, at least mentally, from the pressures we have spoken about are extremely important for a career to truly blossom. At least that was the case for me!
Having a child might have offered you the space to actually see that, where the sport took up all of your awareness before he was born?
M: I think that might be true. Having a child really made me appreciate the little things so much more. I look at it as a boxer. They always say once a boxer has children, his whole career changes, because he has so much more to lose. And I totally understand when people say that. Both of my children were born in Calgary, that made me see the city of Calgary and its community in a different light as well.
It also seems to me you are one of the few players left that came to this point of maturity in the sport right before the internet transformed the public side of being an athlete, tremendously. How do you look back at that development, while being in the middle of it?
M: Social media has changed everything. Everything surrounding the sport has become instant. Both when it comes to the game and what players do privately. Everything is always seen and shared publicly. That has had a tremendous effect when I compare it to my early years in hockey. The only truly private experience I have now is behind closed doors with my family. And don’t get me wrong, generally people are still respectful when you are out and have dinner with your family, but the fact that everything could be shared by anyone has had a big impact on how you go about your life. The introduction of cameras on phones were instrumental in that change. I still remember having flip phones in the beginning of my career. Once those phones became iPhones with cameras the public space lost its privacy.
That can be quite overwhelming. What I have seen with a lot of younger players now is that they really isolate. Which in my eyes isn’t a good thing. You need to be able to go out and have dinner with friends. It is important to still have those experiences, despite the less private circumstances.
Did you already feel this way when young guys like Andrew came into the Flames’ locker room when you were captain of the team?
M: Young players come in way more educated than we were when it comes to athleticism and everything it entails. The game keeps on evolving and the training changes alongside it. This helps players to come in as better athletes, at the end of the day. At the same time, they are more guarded and way more aware of their context as a public figure. When I started, I had no awareness about that, whatsoever. I have noticed that a lot of young guys come in with a lot more confidence too. They come in at a young age with a confidence level that was pretty much unheard of when I came into the game.
Our world is changing and the discourse about emotions is embraced. In my time you weren’t supposed to show emotion, let alone speak about it. This new development is a good thing in my eyes, but sometimes too much confidence can be a bad thing. Which the older guys, like myself, should remind them of every once in a while. It is a normal situation that young players, who were used to being the best on any of their teams, come into a professional locker room where they have to deal with not being the best anymore. That still takes some mentorship, as it did in my time.
Andrew, after your first NHL games in 2017, you get sent down to Stockton once more. A final let-down?
A: A little bit, but I also knew I needed to play more. I know I would play in Stockton. At that point I also completely understood what level I needed to play at to be on the ice in the NHL. I knew I needed to be better and playing games would help me get better. I needed to find the confidence to play as I did in Stockton the next time I got called back to Calgary to play with the Flames. That happened pretty early in the 2018 season. I played a lot of games during that season, finally being able to show my full potential without being completely intimidated by everything and everyone in the NHL.
How did you experience becoming a public figure after all those years under the radar working towards your goal?
A: That was a crazy experience for me. Even shocking at first. Calgary is a pretty relaxed city, but the fans are very passionate about the Flames and what players do and who they are outside of the rink. During those first camps we were also trained how to deal with social media for instance. So, there is also some level of guidance on how to deal with the public element of the sport. I hadn’t done many interviews before I got drafted. All of those elements of being an athlete were quite foreign to me. Even when I played those first games in 2017 and 2018. I remember very well having to stand in front of a camera after my first game, that almost made me more nervous than having to play the game itself.
When I got out of my shell as a player, the elements outside of the rink also improved. For me, that hadn’t been much of an issue before that time. People weren’t interested in a guy that wouldn’t make it anyway. I didn’t even have an autograph when I was first called up to play for the Flames. All I was focused on was playing hockey up until that point. That was another little challenge for me at the beginning.
That also included the way you look and carry yourself; it doesn’t stop with what you do on the ice.
A: That is tough some days, but you are representing more than just yourself. That is what the fans expect from you too. They are in your corner, so you don’t want to let them down as a hockey player. You quickly come to realize that how you carry yourself on and off this ice is really your brand.
They need you to be a well-rounded “superstar” — not just a hockey player.
A: That is correct, everything seems to matter. From the way you dress to your hobbies. It is crazy how much a “public persona” and things like social media play a role in your life as a hockey player. My evolution into the sport has been so gradual, as a younger player all of this played a very small role in what I was doing. I was learning on the job when I finally arrived to the NHL.
How do you look back at those final years of development leading up to today?
A: Once I had really joined the team, I understood I wouldn’t make it if I was trying to make other people happy on the ice. I had to lose my shyness, play my own game. Lose my fear to get sent back down to Stockton. That’s when my game started taking shape, and I solidified who I wanted to be on the ice. I was determined to prove myself to everyone that called me “small” once and for all.
With Mark being the captain of the team during those years, did he play a role in this as well?
A: Gio was one of the guys who helped me a lot with finding the confidence I needed to play my own game. Him and some of the other older players in the team, like Johnny Gaudreau or Mikael Backlund, showed me what it meant to be an NHL player. What the way of life entails. These guys were very good hockey players, but they were also very good people to me. And they wanted others to be the best they could be. That meant a lot for me at that stage.
Mark mentioned that the dynamic in the locker room is changing, what are your feelings on this?
A: I feel like there will always be the need from younger players to learn from the more experienced ones. If you have experienced this yourself, you will do the same when a younger generation joins the team. Gio was our captain when I was new and for that reason, I looked up to him. When he gave advice, on the ice or outside of it, it was clear he was trying to help, so you needed to listen to learn from it. That has helped me tremendously. Both as a hockey player, but also as a human being.
To have experienced that myself has also showed me how important it is for a young player to learn from the experiences by those who have walked the same path before you.
You have also been in Calgary for a number of years now, which means you’re slowly growing roots here too?
A: Most definitely. A place like Peppino, where we shot some of the photos for this campaign, is one of those places that I have built a relationship with. To continue to break out of my shell, connect with people outside of the team will allow a city like Calgary and its community to play a more and more important role in my life.
And where do you stand today when it comes to your role in the locker room?
A: It is changing. I have been in the league for a few years now. I’m starting to grow into a more mature role. I feel I belong in the NHL and on this team. That doesn’t mean I can stop being the hardest working player out there, but I also feel a lot more confident. And that applies to being a hockey player, a public figure and a human. I think our collaboration also signifies where I stand at this point. I have always been a bit reserved when it comes to fashion.
The collection we made together shows a bolder side of myself. I still don’t like wearing a tie, so I will always be true to who I am, but I am showing a side of myself that most people haven’t seen yet. But they will… on and off the ice.
Mark, despite your role, reputation, and many years on the team, eventually your time in Calgary came to an end as a surprise.
M: I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t think it was going to happen until it happened. It was tough. It was a hard time. After all those years, the work I had put in and the great relationships I had built here. It was quite upsetting to me. But after taking some steps back, looking at the bigger picture, I understood it probably couldn’t have been avoided by the team. Nevertheless, I always thought I would end my career here in Calgary. Which would have made the move back to Toronto a lot less certain.
That whole situation, me having to join a new team. I didn’t feel quite like when I joined the Flames, but despite being 37 years old, it was another new situation for me as a hockey player. That was as little challenging at times, but after the initial shock I embraced it and I was able to really appreciate it. Eventually it offered me the chance to come back to Toronto, really forming a perfect ending for my career — which we spoke about extensively, last year.
With two years away from the Calgary Flames under your belt, how do you see yourself as a hockey player now?
M: I have a pretty good understanding that I’m not the player I used to be. You get into trouble if you can’t let go of the past. But it demands you to see yourself and your role in the team differently. And by doing so, still perform at the highest possible level just in a different role on the team. That might not be the same role as in earlier stages of my career, but it is still a very important role within the dynamics of the team as a whole. That’s how I look at it.
And what do you see beyond your career on the ice?
M: I see a lot of time with my family. That has been probably the biggest sacrifice I made during my career, spending a lot of time away from my children. So, they are going to play a huge role in my decision for what’s next. But I don’t want to do anything just for the sake of doing something – I want to be passionate about what I’m going to do next. I have been thinking about it a lot recently. All I can say about it now is that I want to be close to my family in Toronto. The traveling is over for me.
It feels safe to say that whatever you do next, you will leave the NHL in style. Both in terms of your legacy and the way you have and will look during these last seasons. How do you see yourself leaving professional hockey?
M: In style is right, thanks to what we have been able to do. From an athletic perspective it would be ideal to leave on top, as champions. That’s what we’ll fight for this season. As an individual, the hardest thing for me when thinking about not playing anymore is finding a replacement for the element of competitiveness in my life – which is very likely impossible, so I have start accepting that this part of my life is over. That also applies to the intense relationships you have while competing. It is saying goodbye to the locker room and everything that goes on in there. And in my case, replacing it with my family.
I’ve spoken with many people about this subject, and everyone says pretty much the same: the competitiveness and the relationships that grow because of it – that is a part of your life that comes to an end once your career is over. Eventually I also believe that what will remain the most valuable for me out of this career are the relationships. How I was helped and touched by others and was able to do the same in return. The sport is a team effort. The industry is rooted in communities. That is also how I see the future.
The last time we spoke about the Italian Canadian community in Toronto I grew up in. How there were very few players before me who went to the NHL, but older generations having laid the roots for us to grow from. As human beings we have to help each other in life, whether that’s on a hockey team or in society as a whole. That’s the most important thing I take away from my hockey career and that’s exactly how I see the future. In some shape or form. It’s going to suck to not play, I will miss it a lot, but at the same time I have clear view on what really matters in life and I’m really going to enjoy that.
Get inspired by Andrew and Mark’s curated collection of sophistication to transcend generations.