Retired NHL player starts business to commemorate life’s big moments

From St. Cloud State University, to the NHL and beyond, it has been quite the journey for Bret Hedican.

The SCSU alumnus helped the Huskies men’s hockey team launch its NCAA Division I hockey program during his collegiate career from 1988 to 1991, and owns the team record for most points scored by a defenseman in a season. He left his senior year to join Team USA in the 1992 Winter Olympics and started his NHL career in the 1991-92 season with the St. Louis Blues, and would go on to eventually play for Vancouver, Florida, Carolina and Anaheim. His career spanned more than 1,000 games, a Stanley Cup, and a second Winter Olympics appearance. Following his retirement from playing, Hedican now does color commentary for both the radio and television broadcasts of the San Jose Sharks.

“It’s been a wonderful journey, a wonderful ride to be a part of the National Hockey League, be part of this small fraternity of broadcasters that get to broadcast the 32 teams in the NHL, and I’m one of the lucky ones to be able to do that,” he said. “I love our sport of hockey. I love the hockey here at St. Cloud State, I love college hockey — but being part of the National Hockey League and continuing to be part of that over the course of my career and now as a broadcaster has just been an absolute joy.”

To Hedican, an important element to being a broadcaster is being authentic, passionate and true to himself. Another important piece for him is keeping his own experiences on the ice in mind.

“Remember that I was a player, and remember that I wasn’t a perfect hockey player and I made a lot of mistakes. When you’re calling a game — if you’re critical or pointing out a mistake in a particular situation during the course of the game of a particular player — I always remember that player, to note that if there’s something he does quality-wise during the course of that same game, I will absolutely pick that player back up and say something positive about that player, because the game is fast,” he said. “The NHL is the fastest game in the world, and mistakes happen. That’s why the game is exciting, because there’s mistakes going on out there and people take advantage of those mistakes. And my job as a broadcaster is to tell the viewer at home why — why did that happen, how did that happen.”

Throughout his time in the NHL as both a defenseman and then a broadcaster, Hedican gradually chipped away at his unfinished degree from SCSU. Initially in the biomedical science program when he was first a student, his focus gradually moved to business, eventually completing a Bachelor of Elective Studies in 2020. When COVID-19 restrictions began to relax, Hedican came back to St. Cloud State in 2021 to walk in his graduation ceremony.

“One of the proudest moments was me chipping away at my degree,” he said.

In 2023, Hedican started the company HEDi GEAR — after his nickname, “Hedi.” The company specializes in backpacks and commemorative patches. The packs, called HEDi PACKS, have strong velcro on the front and sides of the pack to hold different patches, such as flags, sports team or college logos, favorite bands and more. The inspiration for the product came from an annual fishing trip Hedican goes on with friends, and one year he had velcro added on to tactical backpacks and added patches representing each of his friends’ names, numbers from playing sports, team logos and whether or not any of them had reeled in a prized muskie on one of the trips.

“Those backpacks became really a story of each guy’s life, and it sparked this business,” Hedican said.

A blanket he has also played a part in inspiring the company. Hedican’s mother made him a quilt of all the patches he collected in his youth that used to be on a hockey jacket he outgrew. The quilt still has a place in his home, and he often looks at it and thinks about his journey from his first patch — from when he signed up for mites hockey at 4 or 5 years old — to where he is today.

“It’s amazing the journey that I went on from that one moment. And that one moment of signing up to play hockey in North St. Paul that led me to two Olympic Games, 1,000 games in the NHL, three Stanley Cup finals, a Stanley Cup, now I’m in the broadcast world of calling games, I graduated college — it really sparks from just one patch and that moment in time that I think is just so special,” he said. “My business is all about the moments we’ve had in our lives that you can put on your backpack to proudly display to remember those moments that changed you, that moved you, that make you the person you are. I think that’s — for me — the most exciting thing about my business.”

Moving forward with his business as well as being a broadcaster and for himself personally, Hedican said it’s important to have humility — to be able to tell yourself that you don’t have all the answers. He said he strives to and advises others to always be open to learning more and to never give up.

“Don’t try to do 10 things, don’t try to do five things. I’d say try to do two things — maybe three at the max — really, really well. Understand what those two or three things are that you do well and double down on them. Make yourself great in those areas,” he said. “Then keep having that humility to keep looking at other ways of improving your game, improving your business or improving you as a professional. Lean into the things that make you great.”

The foundation for those beliefs is something Hedican feels he found at St. Cloud State.

“Another thing I learned here is to be tough, don’t give up. … That’s carried with me all the way through my hockey career and now my professional career of being a broadcaster and even in business. Things aren’t always going to go your way,” he said. “I learned to believe in who I am and believe in the strengths that I had to be able to make a difference not only here, but longterm. I think some of the seeds that were planted that helped me throughout my career were really planted right here at St. Cloud.”


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