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Connor Bedard's mom Melanie speaks on son being drafted to the NHL

‘I don’t know if he genuinely believed that until the moment they said his name,’ says the North Vancouver hockey mom

After one of their most hectic weeks to date, the Bedard family is looking forward to some quiet time together in Chicago, the new home of the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

On June 28, 17-year-old Connor Bedard of North Vancouver was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks, a well-anticipated but still major milestone in the career of the most talked-about young star in hockey today.

Despite the incredible buildup to that moment, Connor’s mom Melanie says she still can’t wrap her head around it.

“For Connor, I don’t know if he genuinely believed that until the moment they said his name,” she said. “That has been the biggest goal of his for as long as I can remember, not going first but to be drafted in the NHL.”

While the night represents the future of hockey to league watchers, Melanie said the draft felt more like a graduation night for a group of friends.

“There were so many kids that Connor knows and plays with, and families that we know so well, because so many of the boys – Matthew Wood, Zach Benson and Andrew Cristall – they all played spring hockey together for years,” she said. Wood, Benson and Cristall are all from B.C. and were drafted by Nashville, Buffalo and Washington, respectively.

Bedard family looking forward to time together after chaotic draft week

Amid the chaos of draft week, the rest of the Bedards barely got to see Connor. But Melanie, father Tom and sister Madisen are flying back to the Windy City this week.

It will be the first time in the last while that the four can just be a family together, Melanie said. It was an especially emotional moment for Madisen – who’s very close with Connor – watching her younger brother get drafted to the NHL, Melanie added.

“It was just so hectic in Nashville, and then Connor went right from Nashville to Chicago. So we’re looking forward to even just having a nice breakfast and taking it all in … or just walking on the lake in Chicago, because we just haven’t had the chance to do that yet,” she said.

Connor is currently in the calm after the storm, as his development camp with the Blackhawks starts off the ice, with an emphasis on conditioning and bonding with fellow picks and prospects.

“Connor has been really impressed with just what a great group it is,” Melaine said. “That does give me comfort.”

In the face of unfathomable hype, Connor doesn’t appear to be letting much of it get to his head.

“He doesn’t really pay attention to any of that, which I think is so great,” Melanie said. “He has such a great circle of friends that he’s had since he was five or six. He comes home, and it’s just the normal kid like all these boys … and I think that’s really helped him stay grounded, and [he] can kind of turn off all that outside noise.”

What continues to shine is her son’s focus on his own goals, and his incredible love of the game.

“Connor, he has said so often – and it’s so true – he really is his biggest critic,” Melanie said. “He certainly puts a lot of pressure on himself and has really high expectations for himself.”

“There’s times where he’s in the backyard shooting, even this summer, and I think, ‘How can he not be bored?’ But it’s still just as fun to him. I’m not exaggerating – he just loves it so much,” she continued.

The ultimate hockey mom?

As she’s been by her son’s side through his journey to the professional league, many might consider Melanie Bedard to be the ultimate hockey mom. But she doesn’t see it that way.

“We’ve really tried to make the whole hockey thing not the focal point of things in our home or in our daily life, because I’m so proud of both of our kids. I’m a mom to both of them,” she said.

“But being a hockey mom is great, too…. I don’t really think of myself that way, you know, I’m just a mom.”

As the Bedards enjoy some hard-earned downtime together this week, another major milestone looms on the horizon. If Connor makes the Blackhawks lineup, all the expectations up until now will be taken to the next level.

“I just hope he can just step back, enjoy the moment … and focus on what’s important,” Melanie said. “Hopefully he’ll continue to work hard and chase his dream and have this career that he wants. But there’s definitely going to be a lot of expectations and eyes in a couple of months if he does make the team.”

nlaba@nsnews.com
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