Hedberg comes 'home'

New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. The...

New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. The former Moose goalie was excited to be back in Winnipeg.

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

The year was 2001 and Johan Hedberg was the starting goalie for the Manitoba Moose in the final season of the International Hockey League.

A reporter was standing in line waiting to clear customs making idle chit-chat with Hedberg, talking about what kind of deals might go down on NHL trade deadline day.

Minutes later, Moose head coach Randy Carlyle could be seen talking to Craig Heisinger inside the James Richardson International Airport and he was visibly upset.

Shortly after, we found out why, as Hedberg’s rights had been traded by the San Jose Sharks to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Moose lost one of their best players and Hedberg got the opportunity he’d long been waiting for.

He burst on the scene, claimed the Penguins starting job and led them on a memorable playoff run all the way to the Eastern Conference final, losing to the New Jersey Devils in five games.

Hedberg never forgot his roots and was nicknamed Moose, since he didn’t update his Moose mask until the following season.

Hedberg, now the backup for the Devils, appeared in his 341st NHL game on Saturday night, making 16 saves in a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

He was given the standard goalie heckling chant for much of the contest, but the crowd roared with approval when Hedberg’s time with the Moose was mentioned during a TV timeout in the first period.

“It was exciting. I’m happy Winnipeg got a team back,” said Hedberg, who is 7-5-1 with a 2.24 goals against average in 14 games this season. “You can tell the fans are with them. It’s an exciting building.”

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur says Hedberg has been an ideal goaltending partner.

“It’s been a good relationship and this is the second season he’s been here,” said Brodeur. “I’ve been injured a lot and didn’t play as well as I’ve wanted to. But he’s been there to pick me up. That’s important.

“He’s a guy who works really hard and prepares himself really good. When you’re looking for a guy who is going to play a third of the games, you need a guy who is going to be responsive in practice. When called upon, he’s been really good. He’s a focused guy and he takes his job really seriously.”


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