Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 25
The Stanley Cup Journal

Kristi and Bret, with the Stanley Cup cradled in between, were part of a parade through the Hedicans' hometown. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Bret Hedican made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues in 1991-92. Through 14 NHL seasons, including memorable stints with Vancouver and Florida before landing in Carolina in January 2002, Hedican has proven to be a very sound, defensive defenseman, efficient at clearing the front of the net and at clearing the puck from his zone.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bret planned a day around taking the Cup home to show family and friends and the community that had nurtured his career. On Saturday, August 12, the Stanley Cup was flown by private plane from Massena, New York to Bret Hedican's hometown in Minnesota. Bret was so excited, he crawled into the plane before the propellers had come to a stop. "Where is it? Is it in here?" Yep. There it was — the Stanley Cup, perched (and belted) on a seat near the back.

Bret took the trophy to the home of his parents, Jerry and Terry Hedican. His immediate family, wife Kristi Yamaguchi, an Olympic gold medal figure skater in 1992, as well as three year old Keara and nine month old Emma, were also there, along with a houseful of aunts and uncles. There, Keara and Emma ate their Kix cereal out of the Cup. As the bowl was washed clean, the doorbell rang. At last, the case to the Stanley Cup arrived. It had traveled from Thunder Bay to New York State and on to St. Paul Minnesota attended but without its case. The itinerary had been forced to be modestly amended, but not so drastic as to ruin a player's day with the Cup. Because commercial flights won't allow the Stanley Cup to travel without the case, private planes were necessary to transport the gleaming trophy from Staal to Cole to Hedican.

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The town's icon, a 44-foot snowman, was non partisan for its entire life until Carolina won the Stanley Cup. Frosty now wears the Hurricane colours and sports the number and name of his favourite player.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
"It would be easy to do something alone with just my family, but I wanted to do something for kids and those that supported me through my career," Bret mentioned. With his family, he discussed the possibility of simply taking the Cup to his summer home in Brainerd, Minnesota, but as a group, they decided to let the town that supported Bret experience the Cup on his celebration day. And the two destinations most important to him, outside the family home, of course, were his high school, North St. Paul High, and the college he attended, St. Cloud State. "I want to make certain people see it," he said.

A police escort bookended the Hedican family in a parade that was to lead from the family home to North St. Paul High School. Riding in the mayor's convertible, Bret and Kristi waved to fans and showed them the Stanley Cup.

Across the street from the school is an enormous snowman. 44-feet and four tons of fun, the landmark had been painted with a Hurricanes' sweater, and sported Hedican's number 6. "I can't believe it," he laughed. "That snowman has been around for fifty years and it's never been painted. Now it's got Hurricanes' colours all over it. I love it!"

With 1,500 fans waiting anxiously, at 1:30, Bret carried the Stanley Cup into the gym at North St. Paul High School, its walls sweating with condensation as cheers rang through the auditorium. Bret carried the Cup around the packed gym, hoisting it over his head for all to see. As he glanced through the crowd, his eyes caught those of many who meant so much to him — friends, former teammates, teachers and coaches all nodded and smiled as he circled the building. Ben Clymer, a friend of Bret's and a Stanley Cup winner with Tampa in 2004, was there. In unspoken words in that gym, Clymer had removed his crown and handed it to a deserving friend.

Returning to his high school, Bret was gobsmacked to learn that his sweater number was being retired; the first in the 65-year history of North St. Paul High.
(Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
It was time to speak, and although visibly emotional, Bret addressed much of his talk to the youngsters in attendance. "When you have a dream, go get it! As you can see, dreams do come true!"

Bill Halbrehder, Hedican's coach, stepped forward and announced to the assembled that Bret's highschool sweater number was being retired, the first time the school had awarded an athlete with that honour. Bret sobbed with genuine emotion at the extraordinary gesture. "That put me over the edge," he admitted, smiling through his tears.

Mayor William Sandberg proclaimed Saturday, August 12 'Bret Hedican Day' in North St. Paul. Bret responded, telling the crowd, "Y'know, when I raised the Cup for the first time on June 19, my first thought was about bringing the Stanley Cup home. I brought it here so that kids could see it up close — touch it, feel it. It moves people! Thank you for supporting me!"

A video chronicled Bret's hockey career, from days barely able to skate right through to the 2006 Stanley Cup final.

A parade led Bret and his family, seated in the red convertible, back out of town. Bret and Kristi waved and smiled as candy was thrown to the fans and players from the minor hockey association skated alongside the motorcade, handing out autographed photos of Bret in his Carolina uniform.

The parade reached a spot where two buses waited. One was for family and the other, for friends. The convoy drove to St. Cloud, where Bret played his college hockey. First up was a press conference in the dressing room of Halenbeck Hall. Bret was joined by Hurricanes' teammate Matt Cullen, who also is an alumnus of the St. Cloud State Huskies.


Both skate effortlessly and both have now reached the pinnacle of their profession. Bret Hedican and his wife, Olympic gold figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, celebrate with Lord Stanley's Cup at home in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Walt Neubrand/HHOF)
Three thousand applauded wildly as the two local Stanley Cup champions rode out on Zambonis, then walked to centre ice as the strains of Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys are Back in Town' resounded in the background. The university presented Matt and Bret with framed pictures, and the boys responded by pulling off their Hurricanes' jerseys to reveal new Huskies' jerseys. It was almost too much for the St. Could State fans to bear!

After a meal of fajitas and lasagna, Bret and Kristi with their entourage boarded the buses again and rode for an hour and a half to Brainerd, where Bret and Kristi have a waterfront home on Gull Lake. At 10PM, the group settled in at Zorbaz, the local watering hole. For four hours, friends and family celebrated with the Stanley Cup champion and his 24-hour prize.

At 2AM, Bret and Kristi slipped away with the Cup to their cottage, spending some quiet moments alone with hockey's heralded prize. They read aloud name after exalted name — Richard, Howe, Plante, Horton, Clarke, Lafleur, Bossy, Gretzky, Roy…. Within a few weeks, the name 'Bret Hedican' will join the legends immortalized on the Stanley Cup.

At 3AM, it was time to say goodbye, and the moment was melancholy for the Hedicans. It had been an emotion-charged day for Bret; as great a day perhaps as any enjoyed in his professional life. But like an hourglass, the grains of sand had all but emptied into the bottom of the timer. "I thought I knew what to expect, but it was just so overwhelming," sighed Bret. "It was everything I was hoping for and more!"

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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