2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Avs: Milan Hejduk’s life after hockey

Published: February 24, 2014, 4:57 pm, by Paul Klee

Some players get the itch. Some return to the front-office side of sports. Some don’t know where to turn. 

Others hang out with their kids, coach youth hockey, go skiing or schedule a tee time for Saturday.

That’s Milan Hejduk. 

“I’m kind of playing dad, really,” Hejduk said today after announcing his retirement from hockey. “I’m spending more time with the kids. They’re 10 years old. They need me more now than ever.”

Hejduk played 14 seasons in the NHL. All were with the Avalanche.  After the move from Quebec, only Joe Sakic scored more points than Hejduk as a member of the Avs. I would contend the line of Tanguay-Sakic-Hejduk was as dangerous and exciting as any line the game has witnessed in the past 20 years.

“Basically I was in shoes that a lot of NHL players would like to be,” Hejduk said, and that’s undervaluing his own ability. His 50 goals led the NHL in 2002-03.

At a brief press conference to say his official goodbyes, Hejduk seemed entirely content with a life outside the game. Isn’t that refreshing? He doesn’t need the spotlight or the adrenaline rush that come with being a professional athlete. Some players can’t, or won’t, let it go. 

Then there’s Milan Hejduk. Does he miss the NHL?

“Really, not much. Basically I’ve been out of the game in late April. So not really. (He is) spending more time with the family. Enjoying stuff I couldn’t do before. I’m basically on the ice every day, just having fun with the kids. That’s probably eased the pain a little bit. Basically I’m not missing it much. I don’t miss the competitive part. I like to watch it. I like to be around hockey. But I don’t miss it, I can say.”

Hejduk did two things another player will never do. He scored the final goal at McNichols Arena, in an exhibition game, and the first goal at Pepsi Center, in a regular-season game.

His first training camp came in a place familiar to you.  

“In Colorado Springs, right?” he said. “We played in the World Arena there.”

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette