(Denver) In a final that sees so many spectacular players against each other, features the best goalkeeper in the world and where a team goes for a hat-trick, it is fitting that less talk about the Avalanche coach from Colorado. Especially since in front of the cameras he does not have the charisma of the vis-à-vis of him, Jon Cooper.
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But Jared Bednar has a chance to make history this week. He is truly two wins from becoming the first ever manager to win the Kelly Cup (ECHL), the Calder Cup (American League) and the Stanley Cup.
“I didn’t know,” admitted defender Jack Johnson amused. It’s nice enough that he got this chance. This speaks volumes about his level of knowledge and his ability to get the most out of his players. ”
All coach trips are unique. The peculiarity of that of Bednar: he did not have to go through the junior or university circuits. He was captain of the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL) when, in the summer of 2002, at the age of 30, he became that team’s assistant manager. He has only gotten better since then.
Champion in South Carolina
Pierre-Luc O’Brien’s camera turns on and he has a big smile, happy to talk about “Bedzy”, with whom he remained friends after playing for him from 2007 to 2009 in South Carolina. Not enough to talk to each other every day, but enough to dine together when the Avalanche lands in Montreal.
When O’Brien arrived at Stingrays, Bednar had just been promoted to head coach.
“Bedzy is the happy medium. He is a player coach, but capable of being serious when he serves. He’s straight forward, he doesn’t play behind the boys, ”says O’Brien, a Nicolet forward who was never drafted into the NHL but played five years as a pro after four seasons in the NCAA.
“In the ECHL, we sometimes sleep on the bus, especially when we play three games in three nights. The kids played cards, ate sunflower seeds and we saw him on the laptop until 3am posting music videos for us. He is a boy from Saskatchewan. Have you ever met any prairie boys? Works! ”
“It was a 2-3-2 format and we started there, O’Brien recalls. We go home 1-1 and win games 3 and 4. We think we’ll win at home, we’re sure we won’t be back in Alaska for 17 hours. But we lose game 5 in extra time! ”
Alaska also wins Game 6, so finals require Game 7.
“The morning of race 7, we went for a walk in a park, the whole team, we sat down and he gave us a crazy speech. I don’t remember what he said, but we had tears in his eyes.
“Then he took my line apart, Trent Campbell, Jeff Corey and me. “I need an important game from you, but not just defensive. You have to be on the report “.”
O’Brien ended the match with an empty-net insurance goal and an assist on Campbell’s goal. The Stingrays won 4-2. First championship for Bednar.
Champion in Cleveland
This title allows Bednar to enter the American League, where he finds himself as an assistant with the Springfield Falcons, before becoming head coach of this team, then a subsidiary of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is where former Canadian Michael Chaput met him. His description bears a striking resemblance to O’Brien’s.
“I loved Jared. He is a player coach. All gamers love it. He’s not hiding anything, he’s not playing a little psychological game with you. If he has something to tell you, he will tell you. Everything is black and white, “Chaput describes.
The club moved to Cleveland in 2015 and became the Lake Erie Monsters. The team is having a good season (6And in the general classification), but becomes even unbeatable in the playoffs. The addition of Zach Werenski, fresh from the university ranks, doesn’t hurt.
The Monsters wipe out their streak in the first round, take a 3-0 lead in the second round against Grand Rapids, eventually win six, then sweep Ontario to the semis and Hershey to the final. Fifteen wins and only two defeats.
With such a course, however, there are fewer epic speech stories to tell!
“We were so well prepared,” Chaput said. We weren’t in good health all season, we had kids up there in Columbus. Eventually, we finally had our whole team. We were so well prepared and the boys wanted to play for each other. ”
Second championship for Bednar.
Bednar is now only two wins from an unlikely hat-trick. Unlikely because his trip to Colorado wasn’t easy.
Everyone remembers Patrick Roy’s unexpected departure in August 2016. It was Bednar who was disastrously hired, two months after winning the Calder Cup, who reached the NHL in suboptimal conditions. It ended with a disastrous season of 22 wins in 82 games.
Then came the rumors of disagreement between him and Nathan MacKinnon, rumors fueled in particular by a lively exchange on the bench during a match.
O’Brien sat down with Bednar in the days following the accident. “He said: ‘It happens with the stars. He will lose his mark, but he will pass. He has the interpersonal skills to develop a relationship with the boys. They are not just X and O for a coach.
“When things weren’t going so well, he didn’t feel the pressure. It was like, ‘It’s the biggest league. I’m doing my best, but if they don’t renew the contract it’s life. It is never a disaster with him. ”
If he ends up lifting the Stanley Cup, it will be a few years before he wonders about the renewal of his contract.