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OTR Exclusive: Bret Hedican

BretHedicanOTR had a chance recently to chat with former Carolina Hurricane and Stanley Cup Champion Bret Hedican (yes, he actually played for a slew of other teams including the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks). Hedican is currently serving as an analyst for the San Jose Sharks on CSN out in the Bay Area. So, let’s chat with Bret:

Tony: Now, you’re married to a pretty famous ice skater, Kristi Yamaguchi. You have two kids…were they both born with ice skates?

Bret: [laughs] Well, both of my girls have been skating a little bit. The younger one has taken to it a little bit more than my older one. But yeah, the younger one has already been in a couple competitions. In her first competition she took second place and thank goodness she didn’t win. I did not want her to win because she worked hard, but not hard enough I thought for her to be able to win. She has to understand that in order to win something you have to put a lot of time and effort in. She was able to win the second competition and it was good to see her have some success, but also to enjoy the sport.

Tony: Yeah that’s great. And what is Bret Hedican Day all about in North St. Paul, Minnesota all about?

Bret: Well, after winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, there was no doubt where I wanted to take the Stanley Cup. The first time I ever saw the Cup up close was the year before I won it. A lot of guys talk about “don’t go near the Cup, don’t touch the Cup. It’s bad luck.” All those things. Well, it hadn’t worked for me even up until 2004. And that’s when the Tampa Bay Lightning won it. I finally had a buddy of mine win the Cup and I enjoyed going to his party. And I got a chance to get up close to the Cup. I looked at it close. It gave me a chance to really be inspired by it.

So when I won it in 2006, I thought, ‘there is one place I need to bring this back.’ To show people, to inspire people to know that this is possible. Even in a small humble town like North St. Paul, Minnesota. And so that’s what the day stands for. It stands for the day they retired my number in high school. For me it’s more about giving my community, the people that helped me get to where I am, the opportunity to see the Stanley Cup and touch it.

Tony: Now, how many career NHL games did you play? And what kind of accomplishment is that for you?

Bret: It’s something like 1,040, somewhere in there. And then a hundred and some playoff games. I played a lot of hockey. I guess what that means is that you persevered. You played hurt, you played sick, you played with no confidence, you played with confidence. You played on winning teams, you played on losing teams. I think there is a lot of character that comes with playing more than 1,000 games in the NHL. I think if you’re to talk to any guy that played more than 1,000 games in the NHL, I think you’ll be talking to a fairly resilient human being and I think that’s what that’s taught me to be.

Tony: Now, 2006 you won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, what was that like?

Bret: Well, it was definitely the peak of my professional hockey career, there is no doubt about that. When you win the Stanley Cup there is so much that goes into it. And losing a couple Stanley Cups made me realize that it takes a special group. And our team in Carolina in 2006, there was no doubt that that was a special group of people. We all pulled the rope together, we cared about one another, our wives got along. It just seemed to be a magical season. We knew something was special during the course of mid-year when we were having practices like nothing I’d ever seen. The tempo, the speed, the precision, the drive to make each other better. Those are all the ingredients that you find in winning environments and we had that to the nth degree.

Tony: As far as Carolina, I had a chance to get out there a couple years ago. I went to a game and took my nephew. It was great, but the place was half empty. I didn’t get it, it’s a nice stadium, what’s the market like out there?

Bret: Yeah, I think it’s one place where you can have NC State, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Duke…it’s the one place where everyone can come together and root for one team, and that’s the Carolina Hurricanes. But, all in all, yeah, it’s probably not going to be a great market to go to a hockey game on a Tuesday night. But, there is no doubt that there are a lot of great, solid hockey fans there.

We’ve had two Stanley Cup seasons there, one in which we won the Stanley Cup. So people there know what success feels like. Unfortunately, it’s an environment where you have a lot of different sports and they want to see a winner. And there is no doubt that we are in such a market where we don’t have the ability or the financial stability to be able to have winning teams every year. They have to go through that cyclical sort of ups and downs, and I think during the down years when they are rebuilding, they do have some fickle fans. But, it’s a good hockey market, I really do feel it is.

Tony: In ’97-’98, you led the NHL in short-handed assists. What’s your mentality playing shorthanded that you’re going to go against opposing teams and score on them?

Bret: For me, it was all about “attack.” You have to be able to jump on those pucks when you are killing penalties and you have to respond very quickly. And a lot of times that season it just led to offensive opportunities. I think that year I was probably playing with Pavel Bure, who really lived on the edge, even when we were killing penalties. He lived on the edge going for breakaways. I think we did a lot of great things that season where I put him in on breakaways and he buried it.

Getting points and assists is great, that’s the cherry on top when you are killing penalties. But, the main thing is to be aggressive when you are shorthanded, and wait for those opportunities to jump on loose pucks.

Tony: You cover the San Jose Sharks here in the Bay Area, what type of mentality do you think they need? The determination that you keep talking about, I see it as lacking sometimes with them.

BretHedican1Bret: I think they’ve had the core to be a championship team, I really do feel that way. They’ve had some great quality players, high-end players, and they’ve tried to fill in those peripheral guys over the last several years. Trying to find the right mix of ingredients. When you break it down, they’ve added two pieces to the puzzle that will help them get over the top. And not even on the player side, but more on the coaching side.

They brought in Larry Robinson, who obviously has a lot of Stanley Cups. A ton of Stanley Cup experience and coaching experience, and guys will respect him. Jim Johnson is another guy that played several years in the NHL, is a really thought-out guy, understands the game, breaks it down thoroughly. And he’s going to bring that respect to the defensive core. So they’ve brought two guys in who understand defense at the highest level and have been winners. And I think adding that to the locker room and the respect that they bring could be some of the missing links that the San Jose Sharks have been missing to get them to the next level of success. I think they are getting close and are ready to win.

Tony: Now, Jeremy Roenick made some statements about Patrick Marleau, made a lot of controversy. How do you feel about the subject of former teammates calling each other out like that?

Bret: Well, I find it’s a little bit hard. And everyone’s got their own personality and their way about going about things. For me, when you play with players, when you call a guy out it’s typically behind closed doors and it doesn’t need to be in the media. And any of the winning teams I’ve been on, that’s the way the environment was. Any time you point the finger, there are always three fingers pointing back at yourself. I have a hard time calling players out because I know I wasn’t a perfect player.

The way I try to be on CSN, if I call a player out, I know that that next game, I could be patting the same guy on the back and calling out a great play that he does. I realize that the NHL is a very difficult, demanding sport. Nobody is perfect, but I think maybe Jeremy is just trying to get more out of Patrick because he expects a lot more out of him. J.R. is a demanding guy and I just think he’s trying to make Patrick a better player.

Tony: We’re in a lockout right now, can you explain to me how the revenues work and what is really the holdup?

Bret: It’s been a recipe for disaster. You’ve got Gary Bettman, who for me hasn’t been a guy that’s been really interested in getting a deal done. This is the third lockout on his watch. Then on the other side you have Donald Fehr who has been slow playing this deal all along. You’ve got the large market teams who aren’t really inspired to get a deal done because they don’t want to share the money. Then you’ve got the medium and small market teams who need to get a deal changed.

If you take the San Jose Sharks organization, they are a model for success. They sell out their season tickets, they’ve got a great fan base, they put out a great product, they make the playoffs every year, and they lose money. If you can make the San Jose Sharks successful, you’ve got a league that can be successful. That’s what has to happen within our CBA. They need to find a way to make teams like the Sharks successful. It’s a broken system that needs to be fixed. I think the players have tried to come as much as they can to the side of 50/50 split, but there is just not enough revenue sharing on the owners side to help those small market teams. And I think they are several hundred million dollars off and they’ve blamed it on other things like free agency and the percentage that your salary can go up or down in a given year. I think these are small fights that I think can get worked out.

But, there has to be some level of commitment on the large market teams to share more with the small market teams. But make those teams be qualified. Make them qualify to earn that money. If they aren’t doing things like marketing or selling season tickets, they shouldn’t get the revenue share and they should suffer. I think if we did that our league would be a healthy place and we could all be playing hockey again.

Tony: Yeah, and a lot of people are suffering in communities too. Bartenders, restaurant owners. It seems to lack integrity. And since determination and integrity has been the theme of this interview, why don’t you tell me what your company E360 is all about.

Bret: E360 is “extend, engage, empower” is what the E3 stands for. It’s a licensing company and my first client was obviously my wife. I really wanted to help her and get her licensing brand off the ground. And we’ve done that, we launched a clothing line called Tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi. And a portion of everything we do goes back to the Always Dream Foundation, which is her foundation that supports early childhood literacy. We just feel like “always dream” what that means, is giving a kid the ability to always dream. But, in order to that you need an education, you need to be able to read.

We feel like, at the end of our days, Stanley Cup, yes. “Dancing with the Stars,” yes. Gold medals for Kristi, yes. But, at the end of the day, if we could make a difference and can leave this world a better place and leave the children in a better place for success then we’ll be happy. And that’s what we strive to do everyday.

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