SUN Hockey Pool

Jets great has fond memories of Winnipeg

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:15 AM ET

Each week a Sun staffer gets to know a sports figure a little better in Up Close. This week Kirk Penton chats with former Winnipeg Jets great Anders Hedberg, who was in Manitoba this week for the premiere of a documentary about the WHA and the Jets.

QMI: What has this week been like for you?

ANDERS HEDBERG: Lots of memories. In terms of Winnipeg, itís just a bunch of very unbelievably friendly people. Itís a memory lane and wonderful in many ways.

QMI: What were you thinking the first day you arrived in Winnipeg in 1974?

AH: Very flat. I never could have imagined that it could be anywhere this flat. So that was my first thought. And the second was probably, even at that time, the way they embraced us. There was a lady that I saw today, she worked at the office. Her name was Judy, and she did everything possible. She took us everywhere, and we had our girlfriends at the time with us, to find apartments or ... we needed help, a lot of help. We didnít know how to get a driver licence or how did we find a place to live. And just like today, and yesterday, the sky was pretty well blue most of the time.

QMI: So on a Friday night in the 70s, where would we have found you?

AH: I was a not a party guy, not at all. I was business. Hockey was very important. I know thatís boring.

QMI: OK, what was your favourite place to eat back then?

AH: Boston Pizza on Portage Avenue, Rae and Jerryís, Hyís Steakhouse, and then we had the Viscount Gort. I remember that they had a bar with live music, and I was so amazed of the quality of the musicians every night. It didnít make any difference. There were always good musicians playing there.

QMI: Who is the best Swedish hockey player of all time?

AH: I would say, probably, for longevity it would be Nicklas Lidstrom. If I needed one player to win one game for me, I would pick Peter Forsberg.

QMI: Who was the best player youíve found or take credit for landing in your time as an executive?

AH: Iím incredibly proud of two things. One was the trade of Mats Sundin to Toronto. Cliff Fletcher was the manager of the team at the time. And it was an incredibly gutsy, gutsy, gutsy move, because he traded Wendel Clark, who was a legend in Toronto even at the time, for a young Swedish kid out of Quebec, Mats Sundin. I did a lot of due diligence on Mats. Iíd seen him as a kid in Stockholm, I didnít know him, and I worked my butt off to find out everything that you could find out about an individual: his background, parents, whatís in him, how would he deliver when it really counted. It ended up being an unbelievable trade for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The other was we drafted (Tomas) Kaberle in Toronto in the eighth round. He just stepped in as a 20-year-old, never played in the minors, has been a very important player for the Toronto Maple Leafs for so many years.

QMI: Whatís your most memorable goal from your time with the Jets?

AH: Maybe the first one.

QMI: Do you remember the details?

AH: I got a pass, I think it was from Ulf (Nilsson). Bobby (Hull) was surely involved somewhere along the line, too. I got it on the right side and somehow got around the defenceman and came in and got the goalie down and put it up top. Actually, it was a nice goal. First ever. In Vancouver. I remember that.

QMI: If the NHL returns to Winnipeg, should the team be known as the Jets?

AH: Absolutely. No question in my mind, yes. That brand or that logo has unbelievable value, and itís now 40 years of distinguished service. In my mind, absolutely.

QMI: Whoís the best player in hockey right now?

AH: Thereís some competition between Crosby, Ovechkin and I would say Malkin in there, too. The fourth is from here, Toews.

QMI: Whatís the weirdest thing youíve signed?

AH: Oh, no, I canít answer that question, obviously. (laughs) Thatís impossible.

QMI: Whatís your favourite TV show?

AH: You know, Iím probably so damn boring itís probably a documentary somewhere. Iím really interested in politics. It would be some documentary about some politics. Not domestic. It would be some world happenings somewhere.

QMI: Who is the most famous person in your cellphone?

AH: I wish it was Barack Obama. If you asked me if there was one person I would want with me on a deserted island, it would be Obama. Most famous? Peter Forsberg.

QMI: Can you finish us off with a funny story about your two linemates since they canít offer a rebuttal?

AH: No, I canít, because that would be unfair (laughs).

QMI: Not even a few G-rated stories?

AH: No, they would be PGs, all of them. (laughs) Thatís the problem.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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