For Episode 11 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we stay in the province of Ontario. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed left wing Mike Hedden, who is returning for his third season in Cedar Park. Below are some highlights of our conversation with the Stars forward, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
We are on a streak of almost 20 consecutive days of 100 degrees or higher down here in Austin. I know you love the Texas weather during the hockey season, but do you think you could handle spending a full summer in this heat?
No question about it, not a chance! I wouldn’t even be able to leave my house.
Aside from the heat, do you have any plans of coming down to spend some time here prior to going to Dallas’ NHL training camp?
I had originally planned to come down to Austin at the beginning of the month here in August, but I’m getting so much ice here now it wouldn’t make sense for me to come back where I wouldn’t get any ice in Austin. That’s pretty much the main reason why I’m staying until at least the end of the month, September, I can’t pass up being on the ice twice a day. It’s too much ice time.
After a long season and playoffs, did you need a break to recharge both mentally and physically?
Yeah, I needed a little bit because I tweaked my knee there the second to last [playoff] game against Oklahoma City. So it was nagging for about a month after the season. I gave it some rest and everything’s good to go now.
Those were the first pro playoff games of your career. Did that experience change your mind set on your summer preparations for next season?
I think after making playoffs, and coming up short, I’m going to come into the season and prepare to make a long playoff run. I wasn’t happy the way it ended; I thought we could have competed for the Calder Cup. But obviously things didn’t fall in place for us and you have to move forward. Coming into this year we know what we have to do now in playoffs to be successful, so I’m looking forward to being back in that playoff mode.
What was it that made you want to re-sign with the Texas Stars?
Obviously I love playing down there and I love the atmosphere in the building. It’s a great organization and I like all the guys. I was getting a couple offers from other “A” [AHL] teams, but I told my agent, if I’m going to stay in the “A” I’d love to be back in Texas. I just wanted to wait until I heard from Whitey [GM Scott White] and seeing what their plans were, if they were going to offer me a contract back or not. Then luckily with the Seguin trade, obviously seeing Fraz [Matt Fraser] and Smitty [Reilly Smith] head out to Boston opened up some room for me. I’m glad I waited because now I’m back in Austin and looking forward to another season.
There are plenty of players that have been in your same situation, who have played a few years in the AHL, that can receive offers to head overseas to play in Europe. Was that something you had to consider?
Yeah, especially I think at my age now too where I’m getting a little bit older now. There was some interest, there were some teams calling my agent asking about me, but I never had any actual offers. I wasn’t quite ready to go over anyways. I’ve only been in the “A” for two years. I’m really looking forward to playing a full season in the “A” this year. Obviously because of the lockout last year that kind of hurt and then my first year being a rookie, and having to earn my stripes, I didn’t get to play a whole lot the first half of my first year either. I’m focused and I’m really looking forward to the start of the season.
The NHL Lockout kept you from participating in your first NHL training camp with Dallas last year. But you didn’t get a sort of mini-camp with the entire team going to Frisco right after the lockout ended. Were you thrilled to get a taste of what it was like up there?
Yeah I was. It was definitely a good experience. I had a good time. It was obviously a little rough though, because we were coming off a three-in-three and then we had to fly right to Dallas for a practice and then we left and had a game the next night and we only had three lines. It was a rough six days there, but all in all it was a good experience and I enjoyed the time there.
You had amazing chemistry with your line mates Justin Dowling and Alex Chiasson last year. However there is a bit of a dispute about who holds bragging rights on the golf course. Dowling has been earning a reputation of winning a couple free dinners off you, but that’s not how you see things.
Well, he’s a cheater! [Laughs] We had a deal one day, we were playing for dinner. It was me and [Scott] Glennie and it was supposed to be against Dowling and Baldy [Gord Baldwin], because they were roommates. So we were like, “okay, we’ll play you” because we knew Baldy wasn’t the greatest. So he shows up with Carl Sneep, who ended up shooting the round of his life and beating us by two strokes. So we had to take them to Fleming’s for dinner, which was not problem, whatever, pay up. But then we tried to play them the next day and Dowling wouldn’t play us for dinner.
Didn’t give you a chance to win back your money?
No! He didn’t at all… the little cheater. Brings in a ringer and then makes us take him to Flemings!
Now that you’ve had this opportunity to air your grievances, do you go and challenge him again?
Oh I’m looking forward to it! I’ve been golfing an awful lot this summer.
There was a really funny prank where you unknowingly participated in a full practice one day at the practice rink in Grand Rapids with an inflated piece of bubble gum stuck to the top of your helmet. You seemed very confused during the entire skate as your teammates were calling you bubbles!
Yeah, I had no idea what was going on there. That was a good one. Obviously, I’m pretty sure that was [Max] Fortunus again there. But it was good, everyone had a good laugh out of it, so it kind of took the pressure off practice, even though Willie [Coach Desjardins] was laughing at me. I didn’t understand why at the time, I just thought I was having a really bad practice. It was good to know that it was the gum on the helmet, rather than the lack of skill I was showing that practice.
Was it important to your decision to re-sign with the Stars that both coaches Willie Desjardins and Doug Lidster were returning for their second season in Cedar Park?
Yeah, absolutely! Willie’s such a great coach. Our practices are quick, up-tempo. I like it. Doug’s a great guy; you can talk to him about anything. I loved playing for those two guys and I’m glad they stuck around for another year and I’m glad I can play underneath them again.
-- Texas Stars --