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Berglund Gets His Due

by David Kalan
BUFFALO -- While Jeremy Roenick, Derian Hatcher and Kevin Hatcher are the obvious headliners at Thursday's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Inductions, longtime executive Art Berglund may have cast the largest shadow across the U.S. hockey landscape.

"When I think of USA Hockey the first person I think of is Art Berglund," Roenick said Thursday afternoon. "I think he's probably one of the main guys that, through the years, has been the sole main reason why USA Hockey is what it is today."

In more than four decades in international hockey, Berglund was one of the administrators that helped transform USA hockey into a regular world power after years of being considered below the top tier of the sport. After working for the NHL's St. Louis Blues and Colorado Rockies in the 1970s and 80s, Berglund joined USA Hockey in 1984 as its director of national teams and international activities. Since 1984, the program has become a consistent contender on all levels with major achievements ranging from the U.S.'s win in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey against Canada to its victory in last year's World Junior Championships.

Berglund's pride in his lasting influence as the sport has grown across the country is obvious.

"USA Hockey's gotten to the point now where we don't have to expect miracles anymore," Berglund said. "I think my own legacy is, in 30 years of working for USA hockey, we've come a long way. We don't have to expect players from Minnesota, Massachusetts and Michigan. They're coming from California, Arizona, even Florida, and New York state has produced a lot of great players. The game's grown. We've got venues, great players, great coaches and we're real proud of hockey in the USA."

Given the wholesale leap USA hockey took during his tenure -- Berglund joked that the Hall of Fame in Toronto may have to add a new wing because of the great players that have come out of the U.S. -- one might wonder why he just now is receiving the honor.

After all, Berglund has already been inducted into four other Halls of Fame, including the IIHF Hall in 2008. But for Roenick, while the honor is overdue, the timing of 2010 is appropriate.

"He was the first person ever to contact me when I was a kid about U.S. camps," Roenick said. "I can't believe it's taken this long for him to go into the Hall because of what he's done, and what he's meant to USA Hockey, but I'm glad it's this year."

Hatcher reflects on captaincy in Dallas
-- Derian Hatcher holds the unique status of being the first non-Canadian -- and still the only American -- to captain a Stanley Cup champion. It's an honor he earned in 1999 when he won the Cup with the Dallas Stars -- appropriately, in the same arena where he's being honored Thursday night.

But as Hatcher reflected on his role in Stars history and Stanley Cup lore, he admitted that his place in history came about without any significant change or dramatic team vote.

"At the time we were rotating captains between three or four guys, " said Hatcher, who was just 22 when he first found a "C" on his sweater. "I came in and it was on my jersey, I came in the next day it was on my jersey and [Stars General Manager] Bob Gainey never even said anything to me."

By the time Hatcher led the Stars to the franchise's greatest triumph, he had grown into one of the NHL's toughest defenseman and was comfortable in his leadership role. But it wasn't until that season came to an end that Hatcher asked Gainey why he was the one who managed to keep the designation.

As he found from the laconic Gainey, the answer was fairly simple.

"He just obviously liked me," Hatcher said. "That's how it came about. It was basically there. He never said a word about it.

"He's not a man of a lot of words. Put us two in a room and you'll get a great conversation. Lots of jokes flying around."

Nagobads reveals the secret of his success -- Dr. V. George Nagobads has a lifetime of experience in hockey to share. And boy does he enjoy sharing it.

Nagobads was more than happy to talk about not just his experiences treating players on a number of U.S. Olympic teams, but also his relationship with the late Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. First and foremost, however, Nagobads' job was to look out for the health of his players, and he said Thursday that he leaned from his own experiences on the ice to develop a bond with them.

"It's important to think not only about the physical problems, but also how it goes in their mind psychologically," Nagobads said. "A little bit of what helped me was I used to be a hockey player myself, and I have had all kinds of injuries myself during my youth. And the boys knew that, too, because in the early days, right after official practices I put my skates on and skated with them and started playing a little bit, so they knew, 'Oh, Doc knows how to play this game.'"

Nagobads currently resides in Minnesota, where he has a long history of working with teams from around the state, in particularly the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. But he grew up playing hockey in Latvia, where he learned not only the nuances of the game but how to handle the spills that accompany them.

"I think my own legacy is, in 30 years of working for USA hockey, we've come a long way. We don't have to expect players from Minnesota, Massachusetts and Michigan. They're coming from California, Arizona, even Florida, and New York state has produced a lot of great players. The game's grown. We've got venues, great players, great coaches and we're real proud of hockey in the USA."
-- Art Berglund

His post-practice sessions with national team players and his experience as a hockey player in his youth proved a valuable asset in his career.

"I think I got their trust from them," Nagobads said. "They knew I understood hockey injuries."

Roenick owes a debt to USA Hockey -- The 1980 Miracle on Ice always looms large at any celebration of USA Hockey, and Jeremy Roenick is quick to attribute his own desire to play back to that event.

"That whole group made us want to become Olympians," Roenick said. "Myself, Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk, Billy Guerin, Brian Leetch, [Mike] Richter, I mean you can go right on down the line."

Roenick is obviously proud of the group of American players with which he grew up, a group that among other accomplishments captured the silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

While it was the 1980 Olympic team that was the spark, however, Roenick claimed it was his generation that made the U.S. a world power, and a cursory glance at the U.S. National Team's ascendance during those years would bolster his argument. But he is also quick to note that there was no magic switch which created his generation, and fellow inductees Dr. V. George Nagobads and Art Berglund were crucial pieces in the puzzle.

"USA Hockey has so many great, great individuals that are a part of it that really," Roenick said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been able to be part of such a great organization. Doc Nag is one of those guys."

With Roenick's time as a player both in the national and professional ranks passed, however, the future of the U.S. National team is in the hands of an entirely new group of players like Zach Parise and Bobby Ryan.

For Roenick, seeing the U.S. continue to rise in the international ranks is paramount. With a dramatic break from previous national team rosters, U.S. Olympic team GM Brian Burke brought in a much younger crop, but if the team's silver medal performance in Vancouver this February is any indication, they're staying on the right track.

And for Roenick, that's ultimately what matters.

"That whole new generation with only one or two guys returning, with [Brian] Rafalski and [Jamie] Langenbrunner this year," Roenick said, "that whole group is now taking on from where we left off. And that's just a fantastic thing that USA Hockey's been able to create.

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