Cody Beekman writes about meeting Milan Hegduk
It was 1998 and I happened to be walking home from the 4th grade. I was walking behind some kid's dad with an Avalanche jersey on with a name I had never seen before. It looked like it was 'hedge-duck' I thought to myself, this is quite a peculiar name that I had never seen before. Little did I know that name would become synonymous with the hearts of colorado fans and the many people around me growing up on the ice.
Milan Hejduk the great number 23 quickly became a staple in Colorado excellence and quickly caught my eye, encouraging me to turn on the game any given night. To see the great 23 skating like a mad man and putting together silky smooth moves that only the hockey gods could conjure up, became the highlight of my nights all the way up until his last game April 27, 2013.
At the end of a very disappointing lockout season for the players and fans alike, I happened to be at his very last game, and witnessed him picking up the game puck at the end of the buzzer knowing this would be the last time I would see Milan skating in an Avalanche uniform. Needless to say I was saddened and disappointed. However, to remember his great legacy and all the times he had so selflessly played for all of us, right then and there I felt like one lucky SOB. To be there and say I witnessed the last game of my childhood idol's illustrious career was a real honor.
I am a very lucky recipient of support from the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation and, for the last two years, foundation president, Marty Richardson and I have talked about hockey and players. I made it quite well known that Milan Hejduk has always had a special place in my heart. So when Marty actually got the chance to meet Milan he jumped at the opportunity to connect Milan and I, if only for one conversation.
Well, Marty did his wheeling and dealing and got Milan to give me a phone call from tne rink where his two sons were having hockey practice. As I was sitting at home, the phone rang and as I picked up, I heard a chipper Martin Richardson telling me that he had someone there who wanted to speak to me. I agreed to stay on the line and, to my great surprise, Mr Milan Hejduk himself was on the other end.
At that moment, my jaw dropped like a ton of bricks crashing to the floor as I heard one of my hockey idols say, "Hello." Consequently, all I could talk about were the great moments of his career that I could remember and as a fan felt I shared. He would laugh it off and say how he too remembered them fondly. It was just an incredible feeling.
After I got off the phone with Milan there wasn't a single thing that could bring me down from how high I was feeling, with a grin smiling from ear to ear. It was a great day to answer the phone!
A little later, Marty called me back and said the phone call between Milan and I had totally brightened his day as much as it had mine. Let me tell you folks this added fuel to the flame. Marty said that Milan had invited me to one of his kid's games. The date was set for March 9th!!
As I was driving over to the hockey rink I was accompanied by my father Phil Beekman and my good buddy Hoagie, I could only think and say how nervous I really was, "What am I going to say to him? its Milan frigging Hejduk".
Eventually, we got there we met up with Marty and his daughter Alexi, the nerves eventually began to subside, especially as Alexi presented me with an Awesome drawing of the Dawg Nation logo.
Once the final member of our posse Dan 'Hoagie' Hohenstein arrived we began to watch Milan's Arapahoe Squirt A-team beat up on the Highland Hills team. We were all flabbergasted at his incredible twin boys but also how the entire team was so skilled for their age group. It really shows that Milan's skills on the ice can directly translate, through his passion, to his children and the people around him.
As soon as the game ended Milan met us in the foyer of the Promenade Ice Centre. With a smile on his face, he walked right on over to us. He greeted me with a framed picture signed "to my biggest fan Cody" from there the smiles just kept on coming. Just by the tone of his voice you could tell that he had a genuine warm heart and a calm and relaxed demeanor to match.
We continued to talk and joke around, he proudly introduced us to his two twin boys Marek and David. The two boys were overly respectful and just as kind as Milan himself. It seemed that everybody was extremely blessed to be in his presence, I couldn't help but think he felt the same way.
After that, Hoagie presented him with a babushka doll of Milan which he found hilarious and that gave us all a pretty good laugh. During some pre-Olympic hockey talk Milan said that he had to get Marek and David home for school in the morning. Respectfully, we enjoyed a few warm goodbyes and a bunch of wonderful pictures. Milan left me with a very warm feeling inside as, I had just met one of my greatest hockey idols.
It was an incredible experience and I can only hope that it can turn into a lifelong friendship.
Thank you Milan and thank you Marty for giving this writer, and lifelong hockey fan, a chance of a lifetime.
Cody Beekman #21