|Bret Hedican celebrates the Stanley Cup with wife Kristi Yamaguchi|
"I was 10 years old and watching in the living room with my old man," he said. "I thought, 'That's what I want to be. I want to be an Olympian.'"
Hedican achieved that dream in 1992, making the U.S. national team for the Albertville Games while a student at St. Cloud State. Just 21 years old he played eight games and had eight assists and a goal.
Despite playing on World Championship teams in 1997, 1999 and 2001, he was not invited back to the Olympics until 2006, and even then it was with a bit of luck.
USA Hockey general manager Don Waddell, assistant GM Paul Holmgrean and coach Peter Laviolette chose the team in December after three months of scouting the NHL. But Hedican just missed the final cut. But when injuries occurred, Laviolette called on Hedican as a replacement.
"At the start of the year I didn't think I had a shot," Hedican said, "but it was always a dream of mine, and to actually get that call that says, 'We need you and we want you' was incredible."
It helped that Laviolette was Hedican's coach in Carolina. He trusted the veteran defenseman's game.
"He was playing great for me in Carolina," Laviolette said. "He can skate, he has skills, he has experience, he's aware on the ice. He's able to do a lot of different things."
Hedican played 1 assist in 6 games, ending his international hockey career without a medal. But Hedican cherished every moment.
Another reason Hedican loves the Olympics: He met his wife, Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, at the 1992 Games.
"She didn't remember, though," he said. "I ran into her later when I was in Vancouver and she was on tour and reintroduced myself. It was fate; I haven't run into her on tour since."
When Hedican, who was best remembered as one of the best skaters in all of hockey, was asked who was the stronger skater between the two, he said "If I could only skate half as good as her, I'd be the best skater in all of hockey."
Hedican did alright for himself. He had a NHL career spanning over 1000 games, scoring 55 goal and 294 points. Best known as a steady defensive defender with Vancouver and Carolina, he also played with St. Louis, Florida and Anaheim. He was no all star or Norris trophy threat, but he was a very solid, dependable defenseman for a lot of years. And while he did not win an Olympic medal in 2006, he did help Carolina win the Stanley Cup.