Today, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and 2018 Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman turns 28 years old!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY VICTOR!
Since it’s his birthday, this seems like a good time to reflect on what Hedman has meant to us the fans, and to the organization.
First, my personal story with Hedman. When I started watching hockey, it was his first year in the league. He was tall and lanky and still a bit raw, but even for a novice to watching hockey, I could see the potential that was there. He quickly became my favorite player on the Lightning.
When it came time for me to buy a jersey a few years later, I was debating between Hedman, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos. I ultimately went with Hedman because he was my favorite. Eventually, I added more jerseys to my collection, including Stamkos’. But I also started seeking out alternate jerseys. I got a CSKA Moscow Nikita Kucherov jersey. I have a Moose Jaw Brayden Point jersey as well.
But the hardest one to get was a MODO Hockey Hedman jersey. For those that don’t know, MODO is Hedman’s hometown team in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. There are a few names that you might recognize that played with MODO. Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg, Anders Hedberg, Markus Naslund, Alexander Steen, Mats Zuccarello. Oh, and a couple twins named Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
The trouble is that the authorized seller of SHL jerseys only ships within Sweden. That makes it very hard for someone living in the United States to obtain one. But a bit of luck was on my side. At a convention in Miami, I met a Swede who was also on staff with me. We struck up a conversation about hockey and I mentioned how I’d wanted a MODO Hedman jersey. He gave me his e-mail and we made arrangements for him to buy one for me. Later on that summer, with the jersey in hand, he went to a convention in Belgium. There he handed it to a mutual friend from Slovenia. Our Slovenian friend then met me at a convention in North Carolina where I then had my beautiful new jersey in hand.
Fast forward six months later and the Bolts Family Carnival was coming up. I got online early to buy a ticket to the meet and greet with Hedman in a suite. I went up to the club level early and was the first one in line, with both my Lightning and MODO jerseys in hand for him to sign. I walked into the suite and his eyes immediately lit up seeing the MODO jersey. He was very excited to see it. He talked to me about his brothers Oskar and Johan. He told me that when he started playing with MODO, he bumped older brother Oskar off of #41, which was the family number. Incidentally, Oskar has since returned to MODO after some time playing in Russia and is once again wearing #41.
The reason he didn’t wear #41 with the Lightning was because Mike Smith was with the team in his rookie season and already had that number. So Hedman had to pick another number and went with the now famous #77. He signed my Lightning jersey and then when he went to sign the MODO jersey, he asked me if I wanted him to sign it with #41. I said “definitely” and he did it. There’s probably not a lot of Hedman signatures out there with 41 next to his autograph instead of 77. Meeting Hedman and getting his autograph was a fantastic day and I was walking on air the rest of the Bolts Family Carnival.
Now that my personal reflection on Hedman is over, let’s look a little bit at his career up to this point and what he’s meant to the Lightning organization.
Last year, he became the only player in Lightning franchise history to win the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL. He also became the second player from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft to win a major post-season award, joining Ryan O’Reilly who won the Lady Byng for sportsmanship in 2013-14.
Below is Hedman’s rankings within Lightning franchise history.
- 6th in total points
- 1st in defensemen points
- 14th in goals
- 1st in defensemen goals
- 5th in assists
- 1st in defensemen assists
- t-7th in overtime goals
- t-1st in defensemen overtime goals
- 5th in games played
- 2nd in defensemen games played
- 5th in shots on goal
- 1st in defensemen shots on goal
- t-4th in plus-minus
- 2nd in defensemen plus-minus
To wrap this up, I’ll leave you with some highlights of Hedman’s career from YouTube.