Must Read of the Day: Connor Bedard's Family Loss and His Motivation

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Must Read of the Day: Connor Bedard’s Family Loss and His Motivation

Chicago Blackhawks

We’ve been talking so much about Connor Bedard this week that it feels as though we’re going to oversaturate the interwebs between now and the draft (not happening by the way). But one story I read about the young man really took me away from the ice and more into who he is.

Dan Robson at The Athletic wrote about Bedard’s family before the Blackhawks won the draft lottery on Monday. This isn’t the “proud parents who instilled work ethic” story, however. It’s a story about bonding and loss, and how Bedard is so close to his roots.

Connor’s grandfather, Garth, was in the logging business. Sadly, on April 6, 2021, Garth died in a car accident when an impaired driver collided with him on the way home from work.

When I was playing football in college, I came home for an off weekend at the request of my parents to learn my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was facing a major surgery with long odds of survival. That news shook me; it still does. He did survive, and lived long enough to meet two of my sons.

But now, as the father of two sons who play sports — my oldest is on the golf team at Montini and the middle son is on a 12U travel baseball team — my perspective reading this has evolved to that of a father in that scenario. This crushed me to read, but also warmed my heart to see how the family was able to remain strong together through incredible loss.

As Tom and Madisen [Connor’s parents] pulled out of the driveway, the phone rang again. Melanie answered. It was John Paddock, the president and general manager of the Regina Pats. An officer at the scene of the crash recognized Garth’s name and knew of his relation to the underage phenom playing in Saskatchewan. Knowing that the news would quickly spread across social media, the officer contacted the Pats office.

The Pats were scheduled to play the Swift Current Broncos that night. The family and Paddock agreed that it was best to wait until after the game to tell Connor about his grandfather’s death.

But first, Tom had to navigate their pregame routine. Connor calls his father a few hours before every game. Regardless of where Tom is, he always asks his son the same question, and Connor answers the same way. The exact words remain a private bond between them. Tom steeled himself as he and Madisen drove down the forest-lined highway. When Connor called, Tom held steady, going through their usual routine.

While Connor got dressed in the Pats locker room, a staff member slipped his phone out of his stall so he couldn’t check social media. Connor scored two goals and added two assists, earning first star honors in Regina’s 6-1 win.

After the game, Paddock and coach Dave Struch brought Connor into an office where Tom, Melanie and Madisen had called in on speakerphone. The team booked Connor a flight at 6 a.m. the next day so he could join his family, but Connor balked. There was a game later that week and he intended to be there.

“Grandpa would want me to play,” he said.

Three nights later, Connor scored an overtime goal to beat the division-leading Brandon Wheat Kings. As his Pats teammates swarmed the ice, Connor pumped his right fist and pointed to the sky. His eyes welled as he spoke about his grandfather to the media via Zoom afterward.

“He’s definitely who I play for now and will for the rest of my life,” Connor said. “I know he’s watching me.”

You can read the entire story here (I highly recommend it):

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab