Hrkac a Model of Change
Mar 12, 2008
“When you’re young you do something well, you have to change your game to continue to play at the highest level,” said Hrkac. “I did whatever I had to do to stay. Whether it was checking, penalty killing, scoring a little bit more, or being better on the power play, you do whatever is asked of you to the best of your ability.”
The Admirals will bestow the highest honor a team can give an individual this Friday night, March 14th when they retire Hrkac’s number 26 into the Bradley Center rafters.
“It’s an honor to have your number retired,” said Hrkac. “You play the game the best you can, you try to win, you’re not thinking about people retiring you number. As your career goes on, you play hard, and it's nice to be recognized by the teams you’ve played for and know that you’ve done a good job over the years and they respect that.”
In just five seasons as an Admiral, Hrkac led the team in scoring in three seasons and currently ranks sixth all-time in Admirals career points. As a veteran, he helped lead the team to the Calder Cup Title in 2004, the team’s first professional championship, as he led the team with 59 points and assists points. Winning the Calder Cup was especially meaningful to Hrkac, as he was nearing the end of his 21 year career.
“Whatever league you’re playing in, you still want to win. It was a great feeling. We worked really hard all year for that. It all came together in the playoffs” Hrkac added. “It was a great bunch of guys to hang around with and play. It was really the culmination of a long year, but it was well worth it to win the Calder Cup.”
Tony began his playing career as a goal scorer at the collegiate level with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. In only two seasons at North Dakota, Hrkac led one of the best college hockey teams ever assembled to an NCAA championship in the 1986-87 season. The team, referred to as the “Hrkac Circus” was built around speed with a deadly offensive attack.
Hrkac credits his time at UND with helping him get the taste of victory. “I learned a lot there. It was a great place to go to school. Our team was a very good team and I had a lot of fun there. It’s where I got my first taste of victory and learned how to win a championship. It’s hard to win in any league and I got to do it early.”
Hrkac’s success continued after college, both on an individual and a team level. In sixteen seasons in the NHL, Hrkac played with nine different teams. He tallied 132 goals and 239 assists in 758 NHL appearances. He ranks first among former Admirals in NHL points and assists, second in NHL goals, and third in NHL games.
As a member of the 1998-1999 Dallas Stars, Hrkac played an entirely different role. With perennial All-Stars like Mike Modano and Brett Hull already dotting the roster, he turned into someone who could be counted to be a grinder or kill a penalty when needed. It paid off for both him and the Stars, as Dallas went on to claim the Stanley Cup with a 4-2 win over Buffalo in the Finals.
Winning the Cup was one of Hrkac’s finest moments of his career. “It’s the ultimate in hockey. Growing up as a kid, that’s what you strive for. Playing street hockey always and dreaming of playing for the Stanley cup,” he noted. “I was very fortunate to win one. There’s not too many people who get to live out their dream. I got to and it was amazing.” On his day with Stanley, Hrkac took the cup to his daughters’ school and took it through the classrooms.
Hrkac continues to call Milwaukee his home with his wife and daughters. He has once again adapted his game and is now the head coach of Concordia University’s men’s hockey team. Even though he has no idea where his coaching career will take him, he always loves the area and the people he’s met while in Milwaukee.
“The friendships with the guys on the team, the friendships with people around the city are great. We enjoy it here, we live here now. Having friends all over Milwaukee is the best part of it,” stated Hrkac. “Phil Wittliff got me here the first time and he’s been part of my family’s lives for the last fourteen years. The organization has always been good to me and I’ve come away with a lot of friends.”
No matter how many times Hrkac adapted his game to the team around him; he always relied on one thing to be successful. “I came to play every game and played hard and wanted to win every game. It’s how I played, and I couldn’t play any other way.