Hockey's most scrutinized teenager seeks the quiet life — for now.
Connor Bedard, the most hyped NHL prospect since that Connor, was finishing up his third season in junior hockey when I visited him in March. His team, the Regina Pats, is located in the broad plains of Saskatchewan, where the average winter temperature hovers around 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Against this unforgiving backdrop, the 17-year-old Vancouver native spends most of his time at the rink — which is where he and his teammates also take high school classes — or at home with his mother, Melanie, who temporarily relocated and rented an apartment to ensure her son retained some sort of normalcy.
For fun, Bedard and his buddies frequent the hockey shooting range, an indoor facility where they shoot pucks for a few hours. Sometimes they'll visit the mall, where Bedard said they recently swung by the jewelry store for chains "just because. But I promise you it wasn't anything too crazy."
Bedard tries to stay out of public when he can, and as he gave me a tour in his off-roader SUV, bumping some top-40 music, it became apparent why. When he stopped at a red light, a car pulled up with four adults who recognized Bedard instantly. The driver honked and waved enthusiastically as the three passengers frantically fiddled with their phones to take photos. Bedard, clearly experienced with this exact scenario, politely smiled back.
"There's a bit of buzz, and for me, it's kind of crazy to see some of the things and people I've been compared to," Bedard said. "It's a lot different getting recognized out and about. It's something I'm getting used to. It's supercool feeling the support. But you know … I'm still a kid."
He's understating the buzz.
A winter Pats road trip drew sellouts at every arena, including the 17,000-seat Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames. Cliff Mander, a Vancouver-based marketing executive, told the Global News that he estimated Bedard brought in $1.5 million to the Western Hockey League this season.
Just imagine when he actually goes pro.
This is the reality into which Bedard is starting to settle — even if the public perception doesn't quite match how he feels.