[SPORTS] Kristi Yamaguchi-Hedican's Future
- Yamaguchi-Hedican: Skating With Stars, and Dealing With Diapers
By VIV BERNSTEIN
With an Olympic gold medal on her résumé and years of touring as a
professional figure skater behind her, Kristi Yamaguchi should have
been long past the days of proving her supremacy on ice. But
apparently, from time to time, some still need to be taught a lesson.
Yamaguchi remembers when Bret Hedican, an N.H.L. veteran, decided to
tease her when they were at a California rink several years ago.
Hedican put on a pair of figure skates, stepped onto the ice where
Yamaguchi was practicing and performed some less-than-smooth figure
"I'm like: 'O.K., all right. That's fine,' " Yamaguchi recalled
during a recent telephone interview. "I said: 'Let's do one lap
around the rink. Let's go. Let's see how fast you are.' He took
about three strides and forgot about the toe picks and just went
That was the couple's first and last race against each other.
Hedican and Yamaguchi, who had been dating for years at the time,
married not long afterward and have settled in Raleigh, N.C.
Hedican, a defenseman for the Carolina Hurricanes, is preparing for
another run in the Stanley Cup playoffs as Yamaguchi continues the
slow process of regaining her form after giving birth to their
second daughter in November.
At 34, Yamaguchi is a hockey wife and a mother. But she will be
remembered for her gold-medal performance at the 1992 Olympics in
Albertville, France. More than 14 years later, she still attracts
autograph-seekers, even in a town where ice is more typically found
in a tall glass of sweet tea.
"Sometimes kids come up, and that's totally fine," she said. "I
think that's great. Otherwise, I think in Raleigh, people are kind
of like, 'What are you doing here?' A lot of people still don't
realize my husband works here."
Yamaguchi and Hedican, who met in Albertville and began dating in
1995, laugh at the idea that they are a celebrity couple in Raleigh.
After all, neither Yamaguchi nor Hedican is related to the college
coaching legends Jim Valvano, Dean Smith or Mike Krzyzewski. And the
couple will not be bringing home an N.C.A.A. title anytime soon.
But perhaps Hedican can help secure a Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes
won the Southeast Division title and nearly took the Eastern
Conference regular-season crown, finishing a point behind Ottawa
this season. Carolina will open the playoffs at home on Saturday
against Montreal, and will be among the favorites to challenge for
the Cup, along with Detroit and Ottawa.
"Going in, it's my best shot so far," Hedican said after a recent
Hedican has had more than a few shots in his career. But unlike his
wife, he has yet to skate away a champion. Hedican was a young
defenseman with Vancouver in 1994 when he reached the Stanley Cup
finals, only to lose to the Rangers in Game 7 at Madison Square
Garden. The victory ended 54 years of frustration for Rangers fans.
It merely added to his.
"It took me a long time to get over the one in New York when we lost
in the seventh game," he said.
It was not his first or last disappointment. Hedican has competed in
two Stanley Cup finals and two Olympic Games. In the 2002 Cup
finals, Hedican and the Hurricanes lost to Detroit. He competed for
the United States in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, and his team
placed fourth. In Turin, Italy, earlier this year, the United States
was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
"To be in both those situations, two Stanley Cup and the two
Olympics and not end up with much is, for me, it's bittersweet," he
said. "I'm proud of the accomplishments so far, but I'm really
unsatisfied at where I'm at as far as having my name engraved on the
"It's really the only thing that keeps me going. It's one of those
things that drives me, to have that opportunity again, and maybe the
third time's the charm."
Carolina Coach Peter Laviolette knows the frustration of leaving
empty-handed. He was the coach of the American team in Turin.
"Obviously, your clock starts ticking as you get up into the 30's
and mid-30's, and you haven't been able to win it," Laviolette
said. "There's lots of people who are in that situation who haven't
won it. Does that increase the hunger? Probably.
"Maybe that's what creates more of the urgency for a guy like Bret."
Hedican does not know how many more opportunities he will have. At
35, and having played in the N.H.L. since 1992, his career is year
to year. He is running out of chances to get his name on the Stanley
Cup and help the Hurricanes, who have built a small but devoted fan
"This is a good hockey team, and I'm sorry to say that people just
haven't understood that and come out to really support us full force
throughout the course of the regular season," Hedican said. "They
still love basketball, and they're always going to love basketball
here in Raleigh. I'm not sure what it's going to take for them to
start looking at this game of hockey and seeing a great game, and
not only a great game, but what we have right now is a great team."
And maybe one last chance for a title before the couple settle down
to life off the ice.
Yamaguchi has already made that transition. She worked for a San
Jose television station during the Olympics, and she said she was
hoping to become more involved with broadcasting. As for performing,
Yamaguchi said she had committed to only one show that she will co-
direct for NBC in December.
"I feel like I've had my career," she said. "As far as the full
tour, a full 50-city tour, it's pretty much over. I did 10 years of
it. I was proud to get through that and accomplish that. I'm just
ready to just be off the road. I'll probably never tour full time
"If I do guest appearances here and there for something, who knows?
I don't know how long people would want to see a mother of two out