Closing the vent: Bedard learning to control his emotions amid Hawks' struggles

Coaches and general managers love to see players play with passion.

The best of the best use that fire to lift themselves and teammates to the ultimate heights.

There are endless examples, but few have done it better than Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady.

Their talent level was second to none, but so was their ability to lead by example in myriad ways.

Then there are those whose inner fires either didn't burn brightly enough or were used in ways that derailed teams.

Jay Cutler, Ryan Leaf and Jeff George come to mind.

In the coming years, the Blackhawks hope Connor Bedard mirrors the leadership traits of Toews, Gretzky and the like.

Just 24 games into his career, Bedard has proved his competitive fire burns deep. He celebrates with gusto and loves to win.

Right now, though, victories have been hard to come by - and Bedard has let his emotions get the best of him a few times, smashing his stick in frustration on or near the bench.

Coach Luke Richardson said last week "that's a normal reaction" and he's noticed Bedard doesn't let that anger fester into future shifts.

"He has passion for the game," Richardson said. "I'm good with that as long as he can take a breath, regroup and play that next shift without that frustration in his head, and it seems like he can do that."

But is it that simple? As a future leader of this organization, it's OK to show frustrations once in a while, but if it becomes commonplace, it's a bit of a red flag.

Asked about this subject Tuesday, Tyler Johnson gave an answer befitting of a veteran leader and two-time Stanley Cup champion.

"There's definitely a fine line," Johnson said. "You need to have the passion and the fire, because obviously you care. But at the same time you have to be able to turn the page very quickly.

"To be honest, I think there's better ways of showing it. We always used to say if you're breaking sticks, the other team sees that and gets excited about it. They know you're frustrated."

Johnson said during one season with the Lightning, some veterans got tired of watching honked-off teammates return to the bench and snapping sticks in frustration.

"It was almost after every shift," Johnson said. "At that point we were like, 'Hey, guys, we've got to knock this off.'"

So they starting issuing fines. Within weeks the problem was solved.

It's important to acknowledge that Bedard is merely 18 years old and not even a third of the way into his first season. He leads the team with 11 goals and 20 points, and - by all accounts - is a terrific teammate when the cameras are off.

"After every game there's somebody that wants to meet him," said Nick Foligno. "It's hilarious actually how many people come out of the woodwork just to bring their kid down.

"He always has time. Whether he's in a good mood or a bad mood, he just goes over and makes that kid's day. You don't realize the impact that that has. ...

"Some kids, that might be the only opportunity they ever get to meet somebody like that. For him to be selfless like that, it speaks volumes about him as a person and how he understands his role in this league. It's a great sign for a guy that's going to play for a lot of years."

Before the Hawks lost 4-3 in a shootout to Nashville on Tuesday, Bedard talked about trying to control his emotions in the wake of losing.

"We're competitive athletes and that's going to happen," he said. "But for sure, you don't want to show too much. It's something maybe the last few games I could get better at, but everyone has their moments."

If there are too many of them, the veterans will say something. But for now, Foligno is OK with letting Bedard mature and find his way.

"As he learns he'll find other ways to vent," Foligno said. "Right now he's taking on a lot here - unfairly so in some ways. But right now it's not that big of an issue.

"And the thing is he just wants to be a difference maker every time. It's something that could be learned from other guys in our room that can see that and say, 'You know what? He cares (that much) at 18? Maybe I need to pick it up too.'"

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.