EDMONTON – Ales Hemsky was the quiet craftsman, the right wing on Ryan Smyth's left for all those years in Edmonton. He didn't have to stand in front of a game to talk about what was going to happen, or answer any questions about the game, how it all happened.
"I never really liked reading about myself or being in the newspaper," he says. "I just loved stepping on the ice and playing."
More than perhaps any other Edmonton Oiler of his time, Hemsky would have left a greater impression in the ice hockey world if he had been equipped with better teammates in this way. He missed the Glory Years in Edmonton and preceded what is now brewed here. He had 2006, but although he only qualified for the playoffs in two of his 11 seasons in Edmonton, he never asked to be traded.
"I was thinking about it," he admits. “But we were all there together. Everyone, including me, is to blame. "
"I loved the city and always thought I owed Edmonton something," he continued. "We were so close. I was hoping we could find out and do it again (like in the 2006 Cup race). I grew up there. I was a kid when I started there and I loved it in Edmonton. I met so many great people who helped me. I did not want to go. I didn't want to be a quince. I was hoping we would turn it around. "
At the age of 36, with a body that simply cannot respond to the bell, Hemsky recently submitted his pension papers to the National Hockey League Players & # 39; Association. A career that ended in hip surgery and concussions, which turned into a bad case of dizziness, did not let Hemsky play with his newborn son two years ago. That was his gold watch the moment he knew it was time.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people all over the hockey world and tell the audience everything about what they heard and what they think about it.
Today he and his wife Julie – a Edmonton girl – are raising Milo (two years old) and Jimi (nine months) in a suburb of Dallas, ironically the Oilers' nemesis when Hemsky broke in 2002. One year old from Pardubice, Czech Republic, about the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL.
“I was 16 and turned 17 (when he arrived in Hull). I came from the Czech Republic, packed a bag and went to Canada, ”he recalled. "I ended up in Quebec and didn't even know that they spoke French there.
“It was a culture shock. I'm going there, I don't speak a little English. And all these children (his teammates)? Most of them don't speak a little English either. I would say that 70 percent of the children spoke French, ”laughed Hemsky.
As a teenager, he refused a long-term contract in Pardubice – where his father was the coach – and threatened that he would never play for the national team if he went. In the end, he played 845 NHL games as well as two Olympic Winter Games, three World Championships and one World Championship for his country. Of course, the Czechs wanted him back with his sublime European skills.
"That was the dream when I was growing up," he said, "to play for the men's league in my city (Pardubice) and then to play for the national team." It was never the goal to play in the NHL because when I was a kid we didn't have those games on TV. We had hockey cards. "
Hemsky scored the series winner in 2006 when Edmonton came back after a 2-0 deficit in the third game period and unbalanced the Red Wings in round 1 in six games. He usually intrigued the Red Wings defenders with a puck that seemed to be stuck to his band, which eventually ended a pass from Sergei Samsonov, two obscenely seasoned players who banded together to illuminate the match in a memorable playoff run.
"During my entire tenure as the Oilers coach, there was no player more important to me than Ales," the then head coach Craig MacTavish said recently on 630 CHED. "He may not be alone at the top, but I don't see anyone above him.
"He didn't always like the daily hardships of an 82-game schedule, but when the game was at stake, he was at his best." Great player who has had a huge impact on our team. "
This Stanley Cup run was undoubtedly Hemsky's favorite spring in Edmonton.
"Pronger came, Peca came … We tried all year to find out, and by the deadline they were breaking in like three other good players. Then we had pretty much everything! It was such a fun year, ”he said.
Unfortunately, spring 2006 should never be duplicated.
“I was young. You think it will happen again, ”he said wistfully. "Now you know how difficult it is to make it. How everything has to come together. A little luck, a really good team. A really deep team … "
Hemsky regretted that his seven games against Montreal were unforgettable, but after not shying away from the world's Robyn Regehrs, Derian Hatchers and Rick Matvichuks for years, his body could no longer support his game. It is ironic: in the end he wanted to play more where, as MacTavish alluded to, Hemsky sometimes looked bored in his heyday.
“It seems like I never liked the 82 games, every game. But when the game was at stake, when the games were tight and the boys couldn't deal with it mentally, I liked that, ”he said.
“I always liked to play hockey. I wasn't happy with the media and some other things, but when I could only focus on hockey, it was my happiest time. "