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Resident and former NHL player gives back

By Shaun Kernahan; photos by Terri Wiebold and courtesy of Jan Hejda

Hockey Team

Former NHL player Jan Hejda coaching his son’s 10U Colorado Thunderbirds hockey team.

It was the summer of 2011, Jan Hejda was a National Hockey League (NHL) free agent for the first time after six seasons in his native Czech Republic, three in Russia, and five in the NHL between Edmonton, Canada and Columbus, Ohio. When thinking of places he wanted to play, “I always leaned toward Colorado even when I played in Columbus.” Hejda admitted it was partially because he “always had a good game here.”

When the first offer did not come from the Avalanche, but instead the Washington Capitals “I was like, ‘What happened with Colorado?’ (My agent) called Colorado and they matched the offer.” Hejda had one simple reaction. “Just tell them yes!”

When Hejda called it a career following the 2015-2016 season, he had another decision to make. With wife and kids, a son who is a young hockey player and a daughter now off at college, where should the family set down roots? After a few trips back to Columbus, he arrived back in Denver, got in his truck, looked out to the mountains and knew he was staying here.

The family was living in Parker at the time and decided to buy a piece of land in The Pinery to build their dream home. Permit issues and delays meant the home wasn’t going to be done as quickly as they had hoped.

Colorado Thunderbirds Ice Hockey

Jan Hejda (right) with the 14U Colorado Thunderbirds team he helped coach to the Rocky Mountain District Championship.

A friend told them about an unfinished house for sale in Castle Pines. This was a home that had broken ground with the original owner in 2006, but he was forced to foreclose before he could finish. A second owner bought the house as a second home and gutted the interior. Before he could finish the remodel, he passed away and the home hit the market again. Hejda’s wife, an interior designer, saw the inside of the home as a blank canvas. They jumped at the opportunity to buy a house that was 10 years old but never lived in. They now call this house home.

These days, Hejda is a youth hockey coach and serves on the fundraising board for the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation. Dawg Nation is a supporter of hockey for those with and without disabilities. In addition, the organization is helping bring ice hockey rinks to Castle Pines with the potential of being the future home of Team USA Sled Hockey. A nine-year NHL defenseman with 1,157 career hits to his credit, Hejda’s eyes lit up with respect when he admitted he had not yet tried sled hockey. “They are crazy guys. It feels like when people lose legs; they lose fear.”

DAWG National Hockey

Jan Hejda (third from right in back) joins fellow board members at the City of Castle Pines open house presentation for DAWG Nation. To learn more about DAWG Nation Hockey Foundation, read the December 2019 issue of The Connection.

 

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