North Shore loses youth hockey legendA leader in North Shore youth hockey, Vernon “Vern” L. Hedin, passed away at the age of 73 Sunday at St. Luke’s Hospital after complications with an illness.
A leader in North Shore youth hockey, Vernon “Vern” L. Hedin, passed away at the age of 73 Sunday at St. Luke’s Hospital after complications with an illness.
As a youth hockey coach for about 40 years, Hedin was known as one of the longest-running youth hockey coaches in Lake County. Though Hedin never played high school hockey, his wife Jean said his love for the game started when his sons got involved in the sport.
“He just enjoyed the game and just stayed with it. He loved working with the boys and seeing what potential they had and what he could get them to do,” she said. “He said it was just awesome what he could get them to do.”
In October 2010, the hockey coach was given the first Vern L. Hedin Award for his contributions to Two Harbors area hockey. Jean Hedin said many of the players who were young kids when Vern coached them showed up for the special event. “It was a nice compliment,” she said. “He taught them how to be players and winners.”
Vern Hedin’s funeral service was Thursday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Two Harbors.
An article highlighting Hedin’s hockey coaching career was published in the Oct. 15, 2010, issue of the Lake County News-Chronicle. Here is a reprint of the story written by Matt Suoja.
Youth hockey’s main man celebrated
In 1979, Vern Hedin took his Class A Bantam hockey team to the state tournament, one of the highlights in Two Harbors hockey history and in a career dedicated to local programs.
Hedin is being heralded for his dedication to the sport at the Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association’s “Rink Rally” fund-raiser at the Moose Lodge Saturday evening. He will receive an award for his passion for hockey and keeping the Two Harbors hockey scene alive.
He coached youth hockey in the area for four decades. Most of those years were in Two Harbors. A few were in Silver Bay. His last year coaching was in 2005.
“He’s just been a mentor for these kids throughout the years,” said Janelle Jones, treasurer for hockey association. She said many former players have said he has made a difference in their lives on and off the rink.
“He’s a very good teacher,” said Dave Ettestad, captain of the 1979 Bantam team. He said Hedin was very “big” on practice.
Hedin, 72, never played high school hockey. He didn’t want to wear the “garter belts” players used at the time to hold up their socks. He learned the game from other coaches and also went to seminars with Russian hockey players.
Hedin was also known for his generosity. He donated money so one of the outdoor rinks behind the current arena could be used for a roller rink in the summer. It’s now a skateboard park.
“I think he’s had an instrumental role in our youth program,” said Steve Wasko, head coach for the Two Harbors High School hockey team.
In 1979, Bloomington Jefferson defeated the Bantams in the first round of the state tournament with, Hedin said, the help of a “stupid spring flu” the team had contracted.
The team had 14 players but “no superstars,” Hedin said. They played as a team with only two lines.
Over the years, Hedin and his players practiced outside near the Lake County Arena and sometimes skated in three or four inches of snow. “It was an unorganized deal,” he said.
Hedin remembered a few times when players knocked him over the boards. “[I] called them a bunch of wusses,” Hedin said.
There are memories that grow warmer with the passage of time. Hedin once called for a line shift against Virginia during the 1979 season only to realize that no players were ready to go onto the ice as they were changing out of the long underwear they wore in what became a hot arena. Goalie Tim Alseth had to fend for himself. Virginia got a goal.
Hedin said the key to being a good coach is having a sense of humor while being disciplined. Playing psychologist doesn’t hurt, he said, as well as a lot of patience.
Hedin said Ettestad was a fast skater. At the end of every practice he would have his players race from one end of the rink to the other and whoever won received an “ice cold” Coke from Hedin. Ettestad kept winning the races and, finally, fed-up teammates held him so someone else could win.
Ettestad had a few stories of his own. He said in a district tournament game against an eastern Duluth all-star team, the opposing goalie was penalized for not wearing a mouth guard. Two Harbors ended up winning the game. Duluth protested the game and the two teams eventually replayed the last eight minutes. Two Harbors won a second time in overtime.
To get to state, Two Harbors had to beat the No. 1 team in the state, Cloquet, and the usual lineup of tough Iron Range teams. Ettestad said there were four players drafted into the NHL from that Cloquet team, including Corey Millen, who played in the NHL for 17 years. Four years later, the Cloquet team was in the state high school tournament, winning the consolation trophy.
Hedin said the 1979 team was the best 13- and 14-year-old amateur team to come out of Two Harbors. Jeff Carlson went on to play Division I hockey in Alaska.