Victor Hedman and the Tampa Bay Lightning achieved greatness final 12 months, but it surely did not satiate them. Not once they hoisted the 2020 Stanley Cup amid world circumstances so unusual that the championship felt surreal in some methods. They’re as soon as once more one of many league’s most dominant groups, and so they’re shaping up as a respectable risk to repeat as Cup champs.
The Hockey Information just lately caught up with Hedman to debate his dominant 2020-21 season patrolling the Bolts’ blueline, what it was like successful a championship throughout a pandemic, the pending return of Nikita Kucherov and extra.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: After so a few years the place you and the Lightning got here shut, did it really feel totally different beginning this season with a Stanley Cup ring in your finger? Or did it nonetheless really feel like every other season?
VICTOR HEDMAN: Clearly it was a dream come true once we went all the best way. You would possibly assume, whenever you win one, you’re going to turn into happy, but it surely labored the opposite method. Whenever you win one, you wish to do it once more. So I assumed we have been able to go from the beginning, and we didn’t look again. We regarded ahead and have been excited to get one other crack at it. With the season being as totally different as this 12 months’s, we had some up and downs all year long. However we’re nonetheless in the identical mode, and we’re trying ahead to making an attempt to get one other one.
THN: There’s an previous hockey expression, a kind of unwritten codes that individuals say: “Each nice crew has to learn to lose first earlier than they learn to win.” So, I’m curious, for you, the loss to Columbus in 2018-19, the first-round sweep – do you are feeling like that needed to occur for you guys to recover from the hump?
HEDMAN: (Laughs) No, I don’t assume so. We undoubtedly realized from it, and such as you stated, typically it takes a tricky loss like that, however I don’t assume that performed into what we achieved within the bubble. There was a bunch of various guys that got here in and weren’t part of the 2019 crew. However they clearly knew that’s what occurred, and, you already know, there’s that query about it on a regular basis. I assumed once we received, we wouldn’t must reply any extra questions on it, however they nonetheless get introduced up.
Now, whenever you look again at it, you study from it, that’s for certain. I don’t assume it must occur, but it surely’s undoubtedly one thing that we study from and one thing we didn’t need occurring once more. However this league is so good, and that’s a tricky trophy to win. So that you want everybody, and also you want a bit of little bit of luck and to play your greatest hockey on the proper time, and that’s what we have been capable of do.
THN: Final 12 months, after successful the Cup, your crew had the preliminary celebration and parade, however there have been no conventional “Days with the Cup,” as gamers couldn’t take it to their hometowns and needed to keep in Tampa with it due to COVID-19. So is there additional motivation to win once more since you wish to have the total expertise? Now that persons are being vaccinated, there’s a minimum of an opportunity that the 2021 Cup winner can have a extra conventional celebration and be capable of take the Cup to totally different locations. It might be one thing nearer to a “regular” setting.
HEDMAN: Yeah, for certain. I nonetheless haven’t seen my household since we left final summer season earlier than the bubble. I had my spouse and child over right here, however I haven’t seen my mother and father, my brothers. It’s been clearly a tricky 12 months for all of the folks on this planet. However (the Stanley Cup) is one thing that I wish to share with my household. It simply couldn’t occur due to what (the world is) going although proper now. The parade itself was unbelievable, but it surely’s only one these stuff you wish to expertise once more and, such as you stated, hopefully the total expertise this time. However on the finish of the day, our names are on the Cup perpetually, and we’ll always remember that.
THN: I received’t ask you to take a position on Nikita Kucherov’s well being, but when hypothetically, it seems he’s going to be prepared in time for the playoffs, as has been reported up to now, are you and your teammates treating it like Nikita is the final word trade-deadline acquisition for the crew? The final word enhance?
HEDMAN: Effectively, ‘Kuch’ is ‘Kuch,’ he’s among the finest gamers on this planet, so we hope he can be able to go when the playoffs begin, however we don’t know that. It’s powerful to take a position. However whenever you get a participant like that again into your lineup, to a crew that’s dealt with adversity very properly the previous couple of years with out Steven Stamkos within the playoffs and now with out ‘Kuch’ through the season, getting these guys again is a lift not only for them however for us as properly. It provides us one thing to attempt for, attending to the playoffs, as we would like him to have an opportunity to play this 12 months. We’ve executed a great job of it up to now this 12 months. He’s arguably one of many high gamers within the league, and I’d be tremendous excited if we have been to get him again.
THN: Talking of high gamers within the league, you’re taking part in in addition to you might have in your NHL profession – even now that you just’ve crossed over into the world of 30-year-olds. How are you managing to peak at this age? And what do you assume is totally different about your recreation in comparison with say, 5 years in the past?
HEDMAN: I feel that my recreation is a bit of bit extra full. I really feel like my lows are usually not that low anymore, and when issues are usually not clicking, I attempt to maintain it easy and make the fitting performs on the proper time. When you’re transferring you simply must get going. I put that strain on myself to be a distinction maker in each recreation, and I get that chance from the teaching workers. I get to play in each single state of affairs, I play loads of minutes, so it’s on me to go on the market and ship. I really like having that strain on myself and attempt to be pretty much as good as I can.
Hopefully it’s going to maintain getting higher. I’ve turned 30 and performed on this league for a very long time. I nonetheless assume I’ve extra issues to convey to the desk, and hopefully I can simply maintain it going. Being with the crew that I’m, too, it makes it an entire lot simpler. I’m simply going to maintain taking part in the best way that I’m and maintain taking part in good hockey.