Begin Hopes the Wait Pays Off
Steve Begin hated the wait.
After a productive 2009-2010 season with the Boston Bruins, Begin spent the summer as a free agent. The 32-year old expected plenty of contract options to choose from. However, those options never materialized and Begin kept waiting.
The Nashville Predators did make an offer, presenting Begin with a two-way deal during the summer. But the 11-year National Hockey League veteran wasn’t ready to accept anything less than a one-way deal, so he continued to wait and contemplate his future.
“Nashville offered me a two-way contract before training camp,” Begin said. “I took a chance and waited on a better deal. I wanted to see if I could get a one-way to play somewhere else.”
Even with the disappointment of the Predators’ two-way offer, Nashville was a club Begin targeted from the beginning as a favorable option, especially with friends like J. P. Dumont and Francis Bouillon playing in the Music City. Begin had conversations with the pair during the summer, who both raved about the Predators organization.
Left out in the cold during training camp, Begin began weighing less flattering choices. When Nashville presented Begin with the same contract a few weeks into the season, this time the gritty forward signed on the dotted line.
“It was great to get an offer from Nashville because they were one of the teams that I really wanted to play for,” Begin said. “If I would have known what was going to happen during the off-season, I would have signed here right away because this organization is such a good fit for me and a perfect fit for my game.”
After clearing waivers on October 21, Begin was assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals. He played in his first American Hockey League game since the NHL’s lockout three days later in the club’s 4-3 loss to Chicago.
Though Begin would prefer NHL work, playing in Milwaukee afforded the Trois-Rivieres, Quebec native the chance to reestablish his offensive talents after years of grinding in the NHL as a checking forward.
“(Steve) has been given and will continue to see opportunities to produce offensively,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said. “I think that is a good thing for him to sort of reestablish that side of his game as well (because) he was more of a defensive player in the National Hockey League.”
Begin appreciates his increased role in Milwaukee.
“Here I have the opportunity to work on things that I haven’t spent much time on over the last few years, especially playing on the power play,” Begin said. “I am working on being more patient with the puck, using good communication and seeing where the guys are on the ice.”
So far Begin has yet to make much of an impact offensively, contributing just one goal and one assist in nine games of action. However, Begin has made his mark with the Admirals in ways that don’t always show up on the score sheet.
“He’s been terrific for our hockey team, just like we knew he would be,” Lambert said. “We are fortunate to have him here because he brings a work ethic element as an older player that our young players can see and learn from.”
Milwaukee’s impressive 6-2-1 record since Begin joined the lineup is a testament to his intangibles as player. But Begin is just trying to help out in whatever way he can.
“I’m here to work a lot of things, (such as) getting back into hockey shape and getting used to playing again,” Begin said. “But I (also) have been trying to talk to the guys and pass along some of my experience as a player. I want to do whatever I can to help this team, especially the younger guys, win.”
Begin’s Admirals teammates are already noticing his impact on the ice. This is especially true of forward Linus Klasen, who along with fellow Swede Andreas Thuresson, has been skating on the same line as Begin over the past few weeks.
“Begin is such a tough guy, who always skates hard and hits everything (that moves),” Klasen said. “He works so hard that you have to skate even harder just to keep up with him at times. You can learn a lot from a player like that.”