Yamaguchi and Hedican skate their way through timeless romance
By Mimi Whetstone
He was a Minnesota native, playing hockey for Team USA even before making his NHL debut. She hailed from California and hoped her artistry could capture the ladies figure skating title. When their paths first crossed at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, Kristi Yamaguchi and Bret Hedican began their love story.
In an era where love is depicted by reality television engagements, blockbuster weddings and 72-hour marriages, Yamaguchi and Hedican still show the same dedication to each other after 17 years that they once showed their respective sports. As their love story continues to be written, their fairy tale has a unique, “once upon a time” beginning.
The year proved to be a defining time for both. Hedican was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and Yamaguchi became the World Junior champion in both the ladies event and the pairs event with partner Rudy Galindo.
With the Olympic Winter Games just one year away, Hedican was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Star team, while Yamaguchi won her first senior ladies World title.
Yamaguchi and Hedican met for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. While he represented his country, she captured the gold and the hearts of many Americans.
Yamaguchi and Hedican both attended the opening of a hockey arena in Vancouver. Three years after their Olympic encounter, the two began dating.
Hedican proposed to Yamaguchi on Christmas Eve. “He was clean-cut and soft-spoken,” Yamaguchi told People after the engagement. “Figure skaters have awful perceptions of hockey players, and I thought, ‘this guy’s a little different.’”
Hedican and Yamaguchi tied the knot on July 8. The couple exchanged vows in front of 300 guests after a picture-perfect sunset over Hawaii’s Kohala coast at the Mauna Lani resort.
Yamaguchi and Hedican welcomed Keara Kiyomi Hedican, a baby girl, born Oct. 1 in Raleigh, N.C.
Yamaguchi was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. Later that year, the pair welcomed their second child, Emma Yoshiko Hedican, born on Nov. 17 in Raleigh, N.C.
Hedican won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, played for Team USA in the Olympic Games for the second time and enjoyed official “Bret Hedican Day,” declared in North St. Paul, Minn. on Aug. 12.
After being traded to the Anaheim Ducks, Hedican played in his 1,000th career NHL game. Meanwhile, Yamaguchi took her talent to the ballroom, earning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy on the sixth season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
“One of the things I love about Kristi is that neither of us has changed who we are,” Hedican told USA Today in 2008. “The Kristi you see on TV is the real deal. She’s not pretending to be something she’s not. I couldn’t ask for more.”
After 17 years in the NHL, Hedican announced his retirement from the sport in 2009. In honor of his achievements, Hedican’s number was officially retired in 2010. The following year, Yamaguchi would release her first children’s book, Dream Big, Little Pig, which became a New York Times best seller.
Yamaguchi has written two children’s books, starred in a Power Workout DVD and plans to launch her own line of active wear. Hedican is the Founder and CEO of E360, works as a local sports analyst for Comcast Sportsnet and travels the country as a motivational speaker for various companies and universities.
On July 27, the couple made their way from California to Colorado Springs to share Yamaguchi’s on-ice success with their daughters for the very first time. Now 6 and 8 years old, the girls visited the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame, where their mother’s Olympic gold medal and famous black dress have been on display for the past 17 years.
The couple also celebrated their history at the Olympic Downtown Celebration. Yamaguchi and Hedican lit a ceremonial cauldron and watched their daughters glide across a synthetic ice surface. As their story stands the test of time, Yamaguchi and Hedican skate side by side into “happily ever after.”
Photos of the family visit to the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame can be seen in the slideshow below.