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[SPORTS] Kristi Yamaguchi-Hedican's Future

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  • madchinaman
    Yamaguchi-Hedican: Skating With Stars, and Dealing With Diapers By VIV BERNSTEIN http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/20/sports/hockey/20carolina.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24, 2006
      Yamaguchi-Hedican: Skating With Stars, and Dealing With Diapers
      By VIV BERNSTEIN
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/20/sports/hockey/20carolina.html?
      _r=1&oref=login


      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
      skating moves.

      "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
      crashing down."

      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
      practice.

      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
      Stanley Cup.

      "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
      base.

      "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
      again.

      "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
      there."
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