- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Sometimes I wish that I didn't have those three [previous] years of university and was more hungry," he says. "I wish I had needed hockey. I was playing just because somebody kept offering me contracts." Within five years at IBM he was earning more than he ever had in the NHL.
"I guess minus 82 is something to forget," he says. "At the time, anyway. Not now. That sort of applies to everything. In the grand scheme of life it's so far down there you can't even see it. It's in the Marianas Trench."
Mikkelson moved on, making the transition from "O.K." hockey player to all-star hockey father.
Bill Mikkelson never coached his hockey-playing children. (His eldest, Jillian, cared more about music and writing than sports.) Years ago, when Meaghan, now 27, or Brendan, 25, wanted to skate at the outdoor rink near their home in the Edmonton bedroom community of St. Albert, Bill would drive them and then sit in the van with his briefcase, working away for IBM. During games he would stand in the corner of the rink with other parents, observant but silent. "Our mother," Brendan says, "was the one who'd yell at the refs."
Bill had lived his dreams, however reluctantly, and now his children were being encouraged to live theirs on their own terms. They were, at least relatively, better defensemen than he had been. Maybe he could give them a pointer about, say, deception—a head fake, for example—but they were driving the buses of their careers. He was just driving the van.
"The most important advice my father ever gave me," Meaghan says, "is whatever you do, make sure you have no regrets."
So when Meaghan greeted her father after winning the 2007 NCAA hockey championship with Wisconsin at the Olympic rink in Lake Placid, Bill suggested that she return to the dressing room, look around and take mental pictures that she could burn into her memory. And when Brendan is up in the NHL for one of his periodic stints, Bill often reminds him to cherish the big cities, the pulsating arenas and the charter flights, because in 40 years he might not remember half of it.
"My uncle played"—Jimmy McFadden won the 1948 Calder Trophy and the '50 Stanley Cup with Detroit—"and I remember listening to his games on the radio," Mikkelson says. "Hockey Night in Canada. Danny Gallivan [who called Canadiens games] was my favorite announcer. To play in the Montreal Forum, that was unimaginable. I played against Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr in Boston.... Even though I was trying to quit at the time, in retrospect I was quite grateful to have had that opportunity to be minus 82.
"I got to play. And the price I paid, I would pay it 100 times over."