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Blasts from the Past

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Interview with Anders Hedberg
By Barbara Baxter

Question: What do you think of the proposed NHL-WHA merger? Do you think this merger will eventually take place?
Anders: Well, first of all, it was a proposal last year but that fell through so right now there is nothing officially going on in respect to a merger. So, what's going to happen next year - I don't think anybody can answer that question. It would have been good for the strong teams and that's what it's all about. The strong teams would be stronger - with better players. Also, some fans in some cities wouldn't be able to see major league hockey but the other cities would see much better hockey.

Question: Are you looking forward to the trip to Japan?
Anders: I've never been to Japan and if you've never been to a place I guess you have to look forward to it. I just wish that somehow it wouldn't affect the rest of the schedule but it will because the trip is put between everything else. Yes, the trip will be a lot of fun! Being able to go to Japan, with somebody else paying for you and to play hockey - that will be super!

Question: Is there a feeling of insecurity on the team because of the Jets present financial position?
Anders: No, not for this year - absolutely not. I don't think there is any problem whatsoever. As long as I've been here, Winnipeg is one of the few clubs, I guess, in our league, that have paid every bill whatsoever. There have been no late paycheques or anything, which has been good. There is nobody even mentioning this year that there will be a problem with meeting the payrolls.

Question: With the number of players coming and going, how do you feel about playing against ex-team-mates?
Anders: Eh - really - it's a part of it you know. There hasn't been that many guys going around from our team though. The players that have been around for a long time, they almost know every player on every team but I still don't think it would affect them that much. I don't think they would put the stick in their stomach because they know each other.

Question: What hobbies do you have? When you retire, will hockey be a hobby or will you consider it a lesser priority?
Anders: Oh, hockey will probably be a hobby. I imagine that I will probably be involved in hockey but what kind of levels (Juvenile) I really don't know. I will certainly be involved in hockey - I would imagine. I can't say that I have one "big" hobby right now, besides what I'm doing. First of all I grew up where I had my school and other guys had their jobs and hockey was their hobby. I must say, I almost consider my biggest hobby to be hockey even if it's my job. I don't have any special hobbies but I'm really not a person to sit around watching TV. I'm an active person.

Question: Who is the hardest goalie to score against on a breakaway? Why?
Anders: The only goalies you learn or know about are the goalies on your own team. Otherwise, I just really don't know because when you get a breakaway here and there you don't remember who's in net. That is impossible I feel at least.

Question: You don't find it's easier to score against certain teams ...
Anders: No, I can't say that. Some nights it's easier to score against a goalie because he might not be that good - that night but overall you can't say ahead of time. The goalie might have a bad night you might have a good night.

Question: Can a coach make or break a team? Is it difficult adapting to various coaches?
Anders: Yes, I think a coach can certainly destroy quite a bit if he wants to. (bad coach or bad luck) The coach is not the only guy, he's just one in a team, with a manager and players. I don't think it's difficult adapting to a coach. They might have their ideals but basically, I'm a forward, playing right wing or left wing - I have my style and whatever they ask me to do I think I can adapt to that - it won't change that much. It shouldn't be any problem.

Question: How do you feel about the proposed line change - putting you on the Labraaten-K. Nilsson line? How do you feel about leaving the Hot Line?
Anders: I'm accepting it, but I can't say that I'm over enthusiastic about it. I've played with Ulf and Bobby for a long time and I enjoyed it. That's my answer.

Question: This is your fourth season as a Winnipeg Jet - have you enjoyed it so far
Anders: Yes, I've had three really, really good years. I've really enjoyed myself here. Both hockey wise, because I've been able to play more or less with the same guys and that certainly is an advantage for any hockey player. I haven't been moved around to different clubs - I've stayed here. I can honestly say I've really enjoyed playing here.

Question: How do you feel about living in the city of Winnipeg?
Anders: I think the city has it's advantages. I like the size of the city - it's close to the arena; close to friends; close to the airport. I don't think it's a city where you have a lot of outside activities ... if you want to go outside to do things - there's not much to do. Even in that respect, I've had a lot of fun here and I've met a lot of people whom I consider real friends - not friends just because I play hockey - they're real friends and that's important.

Question: How did you get started in hockey?
Anders: I guess, the village I'm from, that (hockey) was the thing to do in the winter-time. If I wanted to go see my friends during the winter, the hockey rink was the place to go.

Question: Does athletic ability run in your family?
Anders: My parents weren't into athletics really at all. I have one brother who is 2 years older than myself and we were heavily involved in sports (we were very close which certainly helped). He's 28 now and he quit playing 4, 5 or 6 years ago. He's still in university and as you know there's no university hockey over there - it's a different set-up.

Question: How to you occupy your summer months?
Anders: Well, last summer for example, I stayed in Winnipeg until the 15th of June, went to Europe, travelled there by car for three weeks (southern Europe to middle Europe). I went back to my home in Sweden about the middle of July and stayed there up to the start of training camp.

Question: How did you feel four years ago when you where going to move to Winnipeg from Sweden? Was it your first major move?
Anders: No, not really. I lived in Stockholm during my last two years in Sweden. That was the first move. I decided long ago that I knew I wasn't the only one coming here - Ulf and Sjo were coming at the same time. So I decided that I had to go somewhere and to me at the same time - Winnipeg or Buffalo or you name it - wouldn't make any difference to me because it was all new anyway. If it was Winnipeg or another city. The city itself wouldn't make any difference.

Question: Since there are an ever-increasing number of Swedes on the Jets team - does this benefit your style of play?
Anders: I can say my personal opinion is that I don't think you should have more Europeans on the team that you do now. We're - how many - seven - it's a pretty good mix between European style and North American style. I don't any change whatsoever with the number of Swedes but I hear other guys saying, "You still don't know what it is to play in North America because you're playing on a team where all the other teams are trying to take advantage of you because you're on a mixed N.A. - European team"

Question: Does the team socialize outside of scheduled gatherings. In other words, do you have "close" friends on the team?
Anders: Oh, yes. I think I can say that we're 20 guys and the way that I am I don't think I can say that I'm close to all twenty but I may be really close to five.

Question: How does playing with Bobby Hull affect your game?
Anders: When we first came over, we had less respect for him than I believe Canadian youths of the same age - even though we had a lot of respect for him. Ulf and I, we had a lot of respect for him but in a good way - we respected his ability but we didn't always have to give him the puck. We had to play our game, otherwise we would destroy our game. We had to fit into each other - we had to help him and he had to help us.

Question: When you started to play in Sweden, had you heard of NHL greats such as Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe?
Anders: Yes, but I didn't know much about the leagues over here and the players. The players we did hear about were Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr.

Question: Do you plan to stay in the playing end or aspect of hockey as your career progresses?
Anders: I hope I have a couple of years left to play at least and after that whoever knows. I don't know!

Question: Are you planning a move to the NHL next season? If you do go - what would be the main reason?
Anders: If I went to another club - the main reason would be CHALLENGE!! It's a challenge.

Question: Do you feel Winnipeg fans support you only when the club is at the top or all the time?
Anders: If I'm really honest we haven't been that down since I came here. We've been improving most of the time. We've never really been down so I don't think I can answer that question!

Question: When you have a 5 game losing streak and you see that attendance has dropped do you think that it is because the fans are a bit disillusioned?
Anders: Yes, I would imagine so. The fan support is different if you're winning or losing. There's some cities where they always sell out but that's in the really big cities where there's a lot of people they will sell out anyhow. If you continue to lose - it will surely affect fan support. I've heard people say that Winnipeg is a city where they just support winners but I don't think so. I have a tough time to understand that. If you like hockey, you like hockey. If you have a winning team - fine - as long as they're a competitive team I think Winnipeg will support them.

Question: Would you like to go back to play hockey in Sweden?
Anders: I don't think I would ever play hockey in Sweden. Not, that I couldn't - but I hope I will be playing here for another 'whatever' years. When I feel that I don't want to play here - I can't imagine playing in Sweden again.