A version of the following story appeared in the 2016-17 first edition of AVALANCHE, the official game magazine of the Colorado Avalanche Hockey Club. For more feature stories, purchase a copy of the magazine during Avs home games at Pepsi Center. All proceeds from game-magazine sales support youth hockey associations in Colorado.
Jared Bednar might someday have a future in real estate. That is, if this whole coaching thing doesn't work out.
Barely two days in Denver and fresh off a 19-hour drive from Cleveland, the new Colorado Avalanche head coach was back in his truck, exploring the neighborhoods of the Mile High City.
"I enjoy getting out and looking at different properties and different areas to live," said Bednar. "The city has really impressed me so far. No. 1, you wake up every morning and the sun is shining, I love that, and getting around is relatively easy. I've gotten to look at some nice neighborhood and schools."
His interest in real estate comes from his parents and in-laws, traveling for hockey and setting up roots in Charleston, South Carolina, the city he spent 13 years as a player and coach for the ECHL's Stingrays.
"It's something that my family was into a little bit growing up, and then moving around a lot obviously. So is my wife's family, they had some rental properties," Bednar said. "We settled in Charleston and bought a house and things went well, and we kind of continued with it."
Coaching has panned out for Bednar to this point, so any future in real estate will have take a backseat as the 44-year-old from the plains of Saskatchewan pursues another dream.
Bednar is in his first season as the main boss on the Avalanche bench, and it's the first time for him at the pinnacle of the sport.
The son of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Bednar was never drafted by an NHL club, and the closest he ever came to playing in the show were a few American Hockey League stints with the St. John's Maple Leafs and Rochester Americans.
"Having played a number of years in the minors and when I started coaching, my ultimate goal was to get to the NHL and coach at the highest level and earn an opportunity to compete for a Stanley Cup," Bednar said. "That was my goal going into it. I worked real hard in trying to achieve those goals and this is another step in that direction. It is something that I take a lot of pride in and something I've worked very hard for.
"It hasn't been an overnight thing. It's taken some time, and I think all my stops along the way have helped prepare me for this."
Despite having never played in the National Hockey League, Bednar says he doesn't feel that not having that experience will be something he'll have to overcome. Plenty of coaches never made it to the league as a player but have had success behind the bench.
It's about the work that is put in, all the hours of watching video and strategizing how to win games.
"I take this very seriously. I've been preparing for this my whole career, and I'm a competitor and that's what I put in on a daily basis," Bednar said. "I worked extremely hard. I know our team will do the same thing. It's one of those things where your preparation and the work you put into it comes back to you."
After previously winning the Kelly Cup twice as a player with the Stingrays (1997 and 2001), Bednar became an assistant coach with the club in 2002. He was promoted to head coach in 2007 and won another ECHL title in 2009 before making the decision to further his coaching career by jumping to the AHL.
He spent time in Abbotsford, Peoria and Springfield, but he finally reached the top of the main feeder league to the NHL this past season, leading the Lake Erie Monsters to the Calder Cup championship.
"There are a lot of great coaches that have come up from the American Hockey League. I won two Stanley Cups with coaches that didn't have (NHL) coaching experience coming in," said Colorado executive vice president/general manager Joe Sakic. "The best coaches around came right from the American Hockey League. I looked at the track record, and I placed a lot of value in winning championships, and I know Jared's won in the East Coast and he just won the Calder Cup. It's tough to win in any league, and to be able to win you have to be doing something right."
That winning pedigree is easy for the players to get behind as well.
"He's a very clear communicator, which is awesome," said Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon. "He's very smart. He's won the East Coast and the [American Hockey League], which I really respect. He kind of came from the bottom of pro hockey to the NHL. That's pretty cool, and what he's done and what he's implemented at those levels will definitely translate here."
Bednar's system involves playing fast and moving the puck quickly out of the defensive zone, which should result in more time in the offensive end, shots and scoring chances.
"I have a style of play that I think works in today's game," Bednar said. "I think you have to be an aggressive team. The game is getting faster every day, and I think you have to play an up-tempo style. You have to attack, and not just offensively but defensively as well."
His structure works nicely on a club that features young speedsters like MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie.
"I like the way his teams play," Sakic said. "I think it suits and fits with how we play. We have a fast forward group, and that up-tempo, pressure game all over the ice is, first of all exciting, and it will suit our team."
Hired by the Avs on Aug. 25, Bednar had a quick turnaround in preparing for his first NHL campaign. He was in Cleveland, Ohio, getting ready to lead the Monsters in their defense of the AHL crown before getting the call-up--seven weeks before opening night.
He is now settled in a house with his son, who came with him from Cleveland, and his wife and daughter will make the move from South Carolina to Denver later in the year.
The Bednars recently built a home in Charleston, and constructing a house is in many ways a lot like creating a championship hockey team.
"We built a new house last year, so that was a new process for us in Charleston and all the headaches and things that come with it," Bednar said. "To see the finished product, something we had a vision of come together, is rewarding and it's fun."
The foundation has now been laid in Denver, and Bednar is looking forward to building something special with the Avalanche.