September 15, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Brad Schlegel

This is Team Canada captain Brad Schlegel just moments after winning the silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France.

If the defenseman does not look overly happy in that moment he can be forgiven. After all his team just lost a gold medal game. Hockey players tend to be like that, and it is understandable.

Two years later Schlegel went through the same story all over again, winning a silver medal at the Lillehammer Olympics in Norway. The photos look quite similar.

Many years later Schlegel looks at his collection of Olympic medals with great pride. They are the highlight of a career full of highlights, many of them with Team Canada.

Brad Schlegel was a mainstay with the Canadian National Team since the 1988-89 season. The London Knights stayed committed to Dave King's Olympic vision for four straight years, forgoing opportunites to join the Washington Capitals who drafted him 144th overall in 1988.

"It's taken a tremendous amount of dedication for Brad to make it to this game (the gold medal game)," said Dave King's assistant coach Wayne Fleming at the time "Sometimes six months with our program is too tough for some guys because of the travel and the schedule. But he epitomizes the Olympic program, the Olympic dream. I mean those two years right after the 1988 Olympics . . . nobody knows about you. You're like a shadow in the dark. But Brad has stuck with it and that says a lot about him."
"He's not a flashy kind of player," insists Fleming. "He's the guy who settles us down in our end and keeps things steady. He never gets impatient."
"Four years ago, I really didn't think of the Olympics," said Schlegel. "I was just trying to make the team. I just wanted to improve daily and see where that took me. Definitely, it's been worth all the hard work. The coaching has been excellent and playing against world-class competition has made me a better player."

Schlegel finally joined the Washington Capitals after the 1992 Olympics, but found himself buried on the depth chart. After playing sparingly, he welcomed a trade to the Calgary Flames, where Dave King was now coaching.

 'I don't think I would have been buried in Washington, but I don't think I would have played that much there because they have probably the most talented defence in the league. If you are a sixth defenceman on that team, you aren't playing that much. That situation is behind me now and I haven't thought much about it.'

Calgary had decent depth on their blue line, too, but Schlegel battled a groin injury and the always present lack-of-size issue

Having King on his side was beneficial, though by no means something to be taken for granted.

"I think it is an advantage. You know what is expected. You don`t have to figure that out. You just have to go do it. That`s not always easy but at least it takes some of the guesswork out of it," said Schlegel of his relationship with King. "He expects a lot and that`s why it is not easy. You have to put your workboots on everyday and go do it."
It wasn't Schlegel's work ethic that kept him out of the Calgary line up. His lack of size may likely have played a role in his spot on the depth chart. He only played 26 games with the Flames in 1993-94.

The Flames agreed to loan Schlegel back to the Canadian National Team, now coached by George Kingston, mid-season so he could participate in his second Olympics. The Flames needed to make a roster move as their defense corps were all coming off the injured list. With Schlegel the only rearguard on the list who did not need to pass waivers, he was likely to be demoted to the minor leagues. The Team Canada assignment came at an opportune time for all those involved.

"I`m happy and excited. I`m looking forward to it. The first time I officially heard anything about it was after the New Jersey game Friday. They told me the Olympic team was interested and the Flames wanted to accommodate them. I had heard the rumors before that, but it all happened so quickly."

Schlegel never returned to the NHL. The next season he headed to Austria to play for a season before moving to Germany to play for more than a decade.

"I really enjoyed the hockey over there. It's better hockey than you'd think," Schlegel said. "Hockey gave me the opportunity to see much of the world. I'm very grateful for that."

Gratitude is something that comes with age and experience. Schlegel always had it, along with other variables he always considered key to anyone's success.

'If you don't set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve something that is important to you while you're young, you are missing a lot of opportunities,' Schlegel preached. 'To achieve the things you want to achieve there are three important things. The first is direction, then hard work and the third is dedication and courage.'

After hockey Brad returned to his hometown of Kitchener, Ontario and worked in the family business his father established. Ronald Schlegel was a very successful business man and philanthropist in the area, making his fortune in senior housing development.

No comments: