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Jared Bednar | Two wins from history

(Denver) In a final that pits so many spectacular players against each other, features the best goaltender in the world and where a team goes for a hat-trick, it’s only fitting that we talk less about the Avalanche head coach from Colorado. Especially since in front of the cameras, he does not have the charisma of his vis-à-vis, Jon Cooper.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Guillaume Lefrancois

Guillaume Lefrancois
The Press

But Jared Bednar has the chance to make history this week. He is indeed two wins away from becoming the very first head coach to win the Kelly Cup (ECHL), the Calder Cup (American League) and the Stanley Cup.

“I didn’t know that,” admitted defender Jack Johnson, amused. It’s pretty cool that he got that chance. That says a lot about his level of knowledge and his ability to get the most out of his players. »

All coach journeys are unique. The particularity 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 age 30, he became an assistant coach for that team. He has only improved since.

Champion in South Carolina

Pierre-Luc O’Brien’s camera lights up 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 close enough to talk to each other every day, but close enough to have dinner together when the Avalanche land in Montreal.

When O’Brien arrived at the Stingrays, Bednar had just been promoted to head coach.

“Bedzy is the happy medium. He’s a players’ coach, but capable of being serious when necessary. He’s direct, he doesn’t play behind the guys’ backs,” says O’Brien, a forward from Nicolet 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 guys played cards, ate sunflower seeds, and we saw him on the laptop until 3 a.m. to release music videos for us. He’s a guy from Saskatchewan. Have you ever known any prairie guys? It works! »


photo provided by Pierre-Luc O’Brien

Pierre-Luc O’Brien

“It was a 2-3-2 format and we started there, recalls O’Brien. We come home 1-1, and we win games 3 and 4. We think we’ll win at home, we’re sure we won’t be flying back to Alaska for 17 hours. But we lose game 5 in overtime! »

Alaska also wins Game 6, so the Finals requires Game 7.

“The morning of game 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 our eyes.

“Then he took my line apart, Trent Campbell, Jeff Corey and me. “I need a big game from you three, but not just defensively. You have to be on the score sheet.” »

O’Brien finished the game with the insurance goal in an empty net, and an assist on Campbell’s goal. The Stingrays won 4-2. First championship for Bednar.


photo provided by Pierre-Luc O’Brien

The South Carolina Stingrays, 2009 Kelly Cup champions

Champion in Cleveland

This title allows Bednar to access the American League, where he finds himself as an assistant with the Springfield Falcons, before becoming head coach of this formation, then the subsidiary of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is where former Canadian Michael Chaput met him. His description bears a striking resemblance to that made by O’Brien.

“I really liked Jared. He is a players’ coach. All players 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 say it. Everything is black on white, ”describes Chaput.

The club moved to Cleveland in 2015 and became the Lake Erie Monsters. The team is having a good season (6e in the general classification), but becomes downright unbeatable in the playoffs. The addition of Zach Werenski, freshly landed from the university ranks, does no harm.

The Monsters sweep their first-round streak, take a 3-0 second-round lead against Grand Rapids, ultimately win in six, then sweep Ontario in the semis and Hershey in the final. Fifteen wins and only two losses.

With such a course, on the other hand, there are fewer stories of epic speeches to tell!

“We were just so well prepared,” said Chaput. We hadn’t been healthy all season, we had guys up there in Columbus. In the end, we finally had our full team. We were so well prepared and the guys wanted to play for each other. »

Second championship for Bednar.

And three?

Bednar is now just two wins away from an unlikely hat trick. Unlikely because his journey to Colorado was not easy.

Everyone remembers the unexpected departure of Patrick Roy in August 2016. It was Bednar who was hired in disaster, two months after winning the Calder Cup, to reach the NHL under less than optimal 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 heated exchange on the bench during a match.

O’Brien sat down with Bednar in the days following the incident. “He said, ‘It happens with star players. He will lose his mark, but it will pass. He has the interpersonal skills to develop a relationship with guys. It’s not just X’s and O’s for a coach.

“When things were not going so well, he didn’t feel the pressure. He was like, ‘It’s the big league. I’m doing my best, but if they don’t renew my contract, that’s life. It’s 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.

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