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Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

DIRK SHADD   |   Times  
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) during a post game interview in the tunnel on the way to the locker room as the Lightning defeat the Vancouver Canucks with a final score of 5 to 2, with Hedman getting the fifth and final Lightning goal at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (02/08/18).
DIRK SHADD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) during a post game interview in the tunnel on the way to the locker room as the Lightning defeat the Vancouver Canucks with a final score of 5 to 2, with Hedman getting the fifth and final Lightning goal at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (02/08/18).
Published Jun. 19, 2018|Updated Jun. 20, 2018

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged.

"Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.

That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.

But he knows exactly what he's saying when he admits that it was never his dream to win the Norris Trophy, the award the NHL hands out for the league's best defenseman.

Oh, don't get him wrong. It would be a huge honor, he says, and he would be incredibly thankful. Odds are, Hedman's name will be called when they announce the Norris winner Wednesday night in Vegas at the NHL awards show.

If his name isn't called, those CSI: Las Vegas guys need to launch an investigation.

Hedman deserves the award. He had the best season of any defenseman. He's the very best in the game right now.

But if (when) Hedman's name is announced, it won't be a childhood dream come true.

"I dream about winning the Stanley Cup," he said. "That's what I dream about. That's my ultimate goal. That's every hockey player's ultimate goal."

That's why the past couple of weeks have been rough for Hedman.

This looked like it was finally going to be the year that Hedman's dream came true.

The Lightning, once again, was this close to playing for the coolest trophy in sports. But for the second time in three years and third time in his career, Hedman watched his Lightning lose Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Those are gut-punch losses, the kind of losses that can haunt a guy for the rest of his life.

You don't get many of these chances and you hate to let any of them get away.

Throw those Game 7 losses on top of losing the 2015 Stanley Cup final in six games to Chicago, and Hedman remains as frustrated as any hockey player alive.

After the Lightning lost Games 6 and 7 of this year's conference final, the first thing Hedman wanted to do was forget about hockey.

That was pretty much impossible.

"You go through it in your head what happened," Hedman said.

He replayed everything that went wrong. The team didn't score a goal in the final two games. Hedman, playing a tireless 26 minutes a game, was not as good in the playoffs as he was during the regular season.

He's still stunned the Lightning lost.

Then you can't help but think about how it's another year gone by. This was Hedman's ninth. He still has lots left in his tank. He's only 27. He's in his prime. But his name still isn't on the Cup.

So, when the season ended, Hedman and his wife got on a plane and headed back to his native Sweden.

"I think it's important that during the summer that you get your time away the first few weeks and then you start working your way back," Hedman said.

The few weeks of rest turned into two. That's it.

That rest did not include watching the Capitals and Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup.

"No," Hedman said. "I did not watch it."

Why not?

"You're so frustrated and you're so mad when you miss out in a Game 7," Hedman said. "After that, it doesn't matter to me who wins and loses."

So Hedman got his house in Sweden back in order, put his training schedule together, then got back to work.

"You start training again and get the itch back and start thinking about next season," Hedman said. "We can't go back and change what happened, but you hope to make improvements."

It's hard to imagine Hedman getting much better. He was drafted second overall in the 2009 draft and has turned out to be everything the Lightning could have hoped for.

He's a franchise player, a force at both ends of the ice. He's a leader on the team and a great representative for the team in the community.

Simply put, he's a superstar and, unless something fishy is going on, the NHL will acknowledge that Wednesday night.

Hedman said he's just flattered to be a finalist alongside Nashville's P.K. Subban and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty. And, if you know Hedman, you absolutely believe him.

"It's obviously a big compliment and something I'm very proud of," said Hedman, who was a finalist last year, but finished third in the voting.

"Being the first Lightning guy to be nominated for it last year, for me to get that recognition means you've done something well and, obviously, I'm very proud of that. At the same time, you can pat yourself on the shoulder but you still got to work towards getting better."

He's already good enough to win the Norris Trophy.

Next year, he wants to be good enough to win that other trophy. The one he dreams about. The Stanley Cup.

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