Bedard mania is sweeping across the country
17-year-old phenom already holds multiple Canadian scoring records at world junior tournament
Regina Pats hockey phenom Connor Bedard is becoming a must-see with his record-breaking play at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Bedard broke multiple records in Monday's game against Slovakia, making him one of the best Canadian World Juniors players ever. He has registered the most goals and most points all-time by a Canadian at the tournament. He's also set the new national record for points and the most assists at a single event and passed Jaromir Jagr for the most points by a player aged 18 or younger.
"He's born to be a hockey player," said Regina Pats GM and head coach John Paddock at a news conference.
"Any player doing what he's doing, [even] if they were 19, would be catching the hockey world's attention.
"But he shattered all the records of older players at 17, so it's definitely unheard of."
Canada defeated the United States 6-2 on Wednesday night.
Bedard, who's projected to be the first pick in this year's NHL draft, is trying hard to block out all the attention.
"I'm not thinking about that," Bedard said at a recent news conference. "I think that's something that when you're playing the game, you're not worried about what other people are saying."
Budding hockey stars practising at the Co-operative Centre in Regina this week were in awe of Bedard's talent.
"He's a generational talent, and he'll make a name for himself in the NHL," said 15-year-old Yonas Nixon.
Youngster Ko Yanai was still talking about Bedard's overtime goal against Slovakia.
"He just scored the overtime winner and we just thought wow!"
Bedard is a hot ticket not only with Regina fans, but across the Western Hockey League.
For example, the Saskatoon Blades are averaging about 4,700 fans per game, but when the Pats came to town in November a crowd of almost 8,000 showed up.
The Blades host the Pats twice more at the end of the year and expect crowds of more than 14,000 for those games.
"Given the team that we have this year [which is near the top of the league] and given what Connor is doing right now with Team Canada … I'd have to think we'd be pretty darn close to selling out SaskTel Centre," said Blades director of business operations Tyler Wawryk.
"Fans understand that they only have a few chances to see him before he's off to the NHL."
WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said attendance goes up around the league when Bedard comes to town.
That was especially true when the Pats went on a five-game west coast road trip earlier this season.
"Of course, his hometown being North Vancouver, it was a bit of a homecoming for him," Robison said.
"In the five B.C. centres he played in, all those arenas were sold out completely. That was certainly the first impact we saw of the real Connor Bedard effect."
Kevin Shaw, a fan and historian of the Pats, said there hasn't been anyone like Bedard in the WHL.
"The fact he's just 17 … what he's done and all the hype, all the eyeballs and everything that is on him, it's unbelievable," Shaw said.
"I don't think I've ever seen it in the Western Hockey League [before], especially not in Regina."
Shaw said Bedard's impact on the Pats will carry on long after he turns pro.
"Having Connor Bedard be the first overall pick [in the NHL draft] will be something that will be talked about for years."
With files from Louise Bigeagle, The Canadian Press