DENVER (CBS4) – Two weeks ago Avalanche veteran Milan Hejduk decided to officially retire from the NHL.
When the lockout hit the NHL last season, Hejduk, 38, got an early taste of what retirement would feel like. He ended up liking it a lot.
“It felt pretty nice to be more with the family and also spend time with the kids — to be able to go to hockey tournaments and do skiing with them,” Hejduk told CBS4. “Then the season started and we kind of finished the season — half the season — and I then I decided ‘This is it. I’m done.’ ”
So after 14 seasons the man who suited up in an Avalanche uniform 1,020 times (more than any player in franchises history) decided to trade one A on his chest for another.
Hejduk is now an assistant coach for the Arapahoe Warriors Squirt A team and is passing along his hockey knowledge to 9- and 10-year-olds.
It took just one phone call to land the job.
“It was a quick phone call. He said ‘My boys would love to try out for the team and maybe we could coach together.’ I thought that was a pretty good idea,” Arapahoe Warriors head coach Mike McCready said.
Hejduk has twin boys named Marek and David, and he says he loves coaching them.
“I think it’s great. When I grew up my dad coached me, too,” Hejduk said. “So I’m kind of going through the same experience.”
Hejduk said he likes being out on the ice and coaching “better than just being in the stands and then you watch like normal parents.”
“I can bring some experience from my hockey career and I’m just enjoying being on the ice with them every day and trying to teach them something,” he said.
Hejduk is finding that the intensity of squirt hockey is a little bit different than the NHL.
“Once in a while I yell, but you’ve got to remember you’re working with kids. They’re not adults. Whatever you do you can’t treat them as adults. They’ve got to have fun.”
“When they are nuts sometimes and they don’t listen you have to raise your voice a little bit — you have to at times,” he said.
But what do the boys think of having their dad out there as a coach?
“He teaches a lot. It’s fun to have Dad as a coach and it’s fun to do make him do drills,” said Marek, who is following in his dad’s footsteps and is playing forward.
“It’s fun. It’s cool,” said David.
David decided to buck the family trend and play defenseman. He joked that that gives him the opportunity when he’s playing against Marek to “crush him on the boards.”
Marek admitted he has a size disadvantage when he lines up against his twin on the ice.
“I get away with speed,” he joked.
David and Marek’s teammates think it’s awesome to have a former NHL star out on the ice with them.
“It’s really great,” Patrick Raftery said. “He sure knows a lot about hockey. He teaches us a lot, and we’ve gotten better because of him.”
The Warriors are 48-0-1 this season. They will be playing in their league’s championship game next weekend at the Pepsi Center.