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Douglas A. Kaid East Sports

Former hockey pro shares past and vision

When Norm Beaudin moved to Florida 15 years ago after playing 15 years of professional hockey, he thought he put the sport behind him.

He loved the game, mind you. But he wanted to escape the cold winters of Canada and enjoy the weather of Florida.

And 15 years ago, hockey in Florida was along the lines of Sumo wrestling in Mexico. You just didn't see it.

But on New Year's Eve with the sun shining brightly outdoors, there Beaudin was, surrounded by hockey pucks, sticks and thousands of square feet of ice - in Florida.

Six months ago Beaudin, who played for the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars of the NHL and the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey League, opened the Beaudin Hockey Zone 2 at J.P. Igloo Ice and Inline Sports Complex.

The pro shop is Beaudin's second in Florida. His son, David, runs the first shop at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy (TBSA) in Oldsmar.

Beaudin never saw the Florida hockey craze coming.

"When I moved here 15 years ago, I said, 'No more hockey. This is the end of my hockey career,' " Beaudin said. "Now I'm up to my ears in hockey. Build it, and they will come."

Even if his life in hockey had ended as he expected, Beaudin would have had plenty of memories to live with. In his shop are some of his hockey mementos. There's the puck from his first NHL goal. The details are very familiar for him: It was against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 28, 1967 - Lorne "Gump" Worsley was in net.

He also has an autographed picture of his favorite teammate Bobby Hull, the former Hall of Famer and former Chicago Blackhawks star who played with Beaudin in Winnipeg.

"My greatest memory is playing with Bobby Hull," Beaudin said. "Not too many players can say they played with the greatest left winger in the world. It was a great experience. It was a lot of fun because with Bobby I could go in the corners and give him the puck. And anytime I'd give him the puck, there was results. It went in the net."

Now Beaudin's daughter is married to one of Bobby's sons. No, not Brett, it's Blake.

The 62-year-old from Montmartre, Saskatchewan, doesn't just sell hockey products. He also teaches private lessons and holds adult hockey clinics every Thursday at the Igloo. Beaudin and his son also run hockey schools out of TBSA.

In the next month, Beaudin will move into his new home in Terra Ceia. His Florida empire keeps expanding, and there might be room for more.

Baeudin said he's been approached by other hockey arenas about opening shops.

"People see what we've done and they want us to come and give them the same service that we are doing here," he said. "When I started at TBSA, they started coming to our place for the service. Now they are coming here."

And Beaudin sees a day when a future NHL comes out of J.P. Igloo.

"J.P. Igloo has a lot to offer," said Beaudin, whose wife, Linda, does the books at the shop. "The facility is second to none. It's the best in the world, probably. If the kids want to learn, they have to work. This game is not just about throwing your stick out on the ice and putting you skates on. It takes a lot of dedication to get to the big leagues or even college hockey. There's a lot of chances for that. If they want to work, they can do it.

"One of these days we'll see somebody playing out of here going to college and being drafted by an NHL team. There's no doubt about it."

Douglas A. Kaid , sports writer, can be reached at 782-1209 or dkaid@bradentonherald.com. Body