By Adam Brady
Bret Hedican has played for five different teams in a distinguished 17-year NHL career, but had hardly been in the position he was in last month. Hedican had remained a free agent through the offseason, training camp and into the first three weeks of the regular season while he waited for the right offer to come along. Although several teams had made offers to bring him in for this season, Hedican had his eye on just a couple – the Ducks being at the top of that list.
When some shuffling in their defensive corps necessitated the addition of another veteran d-man, the call went out to the 38-year-old Hedican, and he couldn’t put his signature on a contract soon enough. The native of St. Paul
had been training for a couple of weeks at his alma mater St. Cloud University
, and he hopped on a plane to join the Ducks in Ottawa
, in the midst of a four-game road swing.
Hedican had spent the previous six seasons in Carolina
(where he won a Stanley Cup in 2006), but keeps an offseason home in the San Jose
area with wife Kristi Yamaguchi. He and the former gold medal-winning figure skater (and last season’s “Dancing with the Stars” champion) were married in July of 2000 and have two daughters, Keara and Emma. What went into your decision to wait to sign a contract for this season until the middle of October?
It was really about joining this team. I mean, what an opportunity. I never thought it would be possible to come to this organization, especially with the team they have and the defensive unit they have. You look at the veteran guys they have with Niedermayer, Beauchemin, Pronger, Montador, guys who have been around awhile and play the game at a high level. Huskins is also a kid who’s come in and played great. For me to come in and just join this group and add anything I can and relieve these guys and cut their minutes back by just a couple, that’s how I see my role. I had some offers from other teams, but I had a couple teams in mind, this being one of them.
What was it like walking into that locker room for the first time, when you joined the team in Ottawa?
|"Really, the only thing that keeps me going in the summers when I’m training is the thought of trying to win another Stanley Cup. Once you have a taste of that, it’s something you want to experience again. And looking at this team, I think we really have a shot at it." |
I felt like a rookie all over again. I really just tried to lean on the things I’ve been doing my whole career, my ability to just come in and not try to do too much. I just tried to rely on my strengths, keep my mouth shut and just listen and play. That’s what I’m going to try and do for awhile here, just sit back and earn my stripes. Were you welcomed by the team fairly quickly?
I’m an outcast [laughs]. No, it’s a good group here and it’s a real humble group. That’s nice to see. It’s a bunch of relatively quiet guys who just kind of go about their business, and that fits in with what I am. I’m just trying to earn their respect through hard work. Having won the Cup with the Hurricanes three seasons ago, is that a feeling you’re anxious to go through again?
Absolutely. Really the only thing that keeps me going in the summers when I’m training is the thought of trying to win another Stanley Cup. Once you have a taste of that, it’s something you want to experience again. And looking at this team, I think we really have a shot at it.
| A FEW OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS |
Offseason activity: Swimming with my girls
Movie: “A Few Good Men”
TV show: “Law & Order”
Guilty pleasure: Ice cream
Vacation spot: Hawaii
Prized possession: My Stanley Cup ring
Time-killer on the road: Watching movies
Athlete outside of hockey: Tiger Woods
Road arena: Bell Centre in Montreal
Road city: New York
Actor who would play him in a movie: Vince Vaughn
How did you and your wife meet?
I met her originally at the Olympics in 1992. I was playing for the American team and that was the year she won her gold medal. She doesn’t remember meeting me, obviously, but I remembered meeting her. Then I was up in Vancouver
playing for the Canucks in 1995 and she and Kurt Browning were hired to come and skate at the opening of GM Place
. That’s when I reintroduced myself. And we just kind of kept on bumping into each other that year because she was on her tour. I bumped into her in San Jose
the next week and then in Long Island when we were playing the Islanders and then Colorado
when we were playing the Avalanche. We kept running into each other and that’s where our friendship started. And now you’re the power couple on ice skates.
[Laughs]. We’re just two people who have been really lucky to do what we do. We’ve both got great families that support us and now it’s all about raising our two girls and having fun doing what we’re doing.
You played in two Olympics, one as an amateur in 1992 and again as an NHLer in 2006. What was the experience like?
|Hedican and wife Kristi Yamaguchi first met at the 1992 Olympics and now live in the San Jose area with their two young daughters. |
As an amateur it was the most amazing experience for me ever, because it was the ultimate goal for me as a kid, to make it the Olympic Games. And there I was, representing the United States
. Being at the opening ceremonies representing your country is really a special feeling. We played amazingly that year. We played some of the best teams in the world and finished fourth, unfortunately just short of a medal. We beat some really good hockey teams and I was really proud of it. I never thought I’d have a second chance at it, and to go back as an NHL player in 2006 was another great experience. Has it been tough to start your season when it was already a few weeks old?
My timing has got to get better and I’ve got to make some simpler plays. It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t step into the NHL and automatically get up to speed. I’m not too wrapped up into trying to make a lot of good plays. It’s just every day trying to chip away at the mountain a little bit and every day trying to get a little better.