The man behind the moves: Dancing Gabe, family share story on Winnipeg icon
Published Thursday, October 30, 2014 4:09PM CST Last Updated Thursday, October 30, 2014 5:59PM CST
You likely know Gabriel Langlois. You may have a photo with him or have shared a high-five. At the very least, you've seen him dance.
But the man we know as Dancing Gabe didn't always have the moves.
“He didn't walk until he was just about three,” said Angelina Langlois, his mother.
And little Gabe didn't speak either. Doctors never explained it.
“They wanted to find out what was wrong - if he was autistic - but you know, they really didn't tell me exactly what it was,” said Angelina.
At age five, doctors recommended Gabe live at an institute in Portage la Prairie and then a foster home in Treherne to take special classes.
That's where a nun took Gabe under her wing. She taught him to read and write and he excelled.
His family said he has an amazing memory, especially for sports and words.
“Gabe is our dictionary here. We don’t even need to look in the book,” said his mom.
And at age 10, he started to talk.
Gabe moved back home and started school with his four brothers and sister.
That's when sports took hold. Gabe's dad loved Hockey Night in Canada, and his kids did too.
His dad died of leukemia when Gabe was 21.
Gabe took that very hard. To lift his spirits, his brothers took him to his first Winnipeg Blue Bombers game.
“June of 1984 when they played the defending Grey Cup champions from Toronto,“ said Gabe.
He got in front of all the fans and started dancing and making them cheer. Media noticed and coined his nickname: Dancing Gabe.
“I felt like I’m being me,” said Gabe.
He's been living up to his nickname ever since, dancing through the decades at nearly every home game for the Bombers, Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg Jets and the Goldeyes.
He’s always in team colours, and often in the number 91. That marks the first year a team gave him a personalized jersey.
“Gave me the blue Jets jersey. I was on TSN – boom! I was on national TV,“ said Gabe.
At age 51, Gabe now has 29 personalized jerseys, a massive collection of sports memorabilia, even his own Goldeyes championship ring.
Other accolades line the walls of his St. Vital bedroom - all signs of his community involvement.
He’s been volunteering and working out at the St. Vital YMCA for 26 years, For years, he ran the full Manitoba Marathon - all keeping him fit for game time.
On game days he gears up then warms up, loading up on carbs and loads onto the bus. The ride gives him time to relax, because once he's at the game - it's game on.
To get the crowd going, Gabe gets around, moving from section to section. And his efforts don't go unnoticed by fans or the teams.
Dancing Gabe has become a Winnipeg icon.
“He's an institution. He's what Winnipeg sports is all about. We've grown up with him. We love him. I hope he's here forever,” said one fan at a Jets game.
Gabe doesn't ask for anything, even though some people think he deserves a special honour.
He's just happy for the chance to do what he loves - watch sports and dance.