(Courtesy of Perry Bergson, Brandon Sun) — Getting cut rarely works out as well it did for 15-year-old Trevor Kidd.
The Oakbank product played with the Eastman Selects in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League in 1987-88, and tried out for a provincial team after the season. He was cut, but Brandon Wheat Kings coach Doug Sauter spotted him and invited him to a Western Hockey League camp.
“The rest is history,” Kidd said. “I ended up making the team, played a ton of games and really set myself up, getting as many shots as I received a game, and getting recognized, not only in the Western Hockey League but across the CHL. That paved the way to get an invite to world juniors and started my career. It happened quick.”
Now 44 and living in Winnipeg with his wife Tiffany (nee Balkwill) of Brandon and three daughters, Kidd parlayed that invitation to the Wheat Kings’ camp into two world junior medals, an Olympic medal and a 12-year career in the National Hockey League.
Kidd grew up in Oakbank, just east of Winnipeg, and gives his father credit for making the 45-minute drive to Steinbach when he got older to allow him to play better hockey four nights a week.
Kidd quickly made his presence known in Brandon, earning a spot as a 16-year-old in his first camp in 1988-89. The lessons came fast and furious at Kidd on a team that would go 25-43-4.
“At one of the first practices I was there the team had been made and Sauter had called in a scrum and I went sat on the edge of the boards while they were doing these breakout drills,” Kidd said. “You know life is good, I’ve made the team, I’m 16 years old and playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings. I’m not kidding you, he fired a puck that just missed my head, and sitting on the boards it scared the living daylights out of me.
“And he lost it. He was up and down me, ‘What the heck are you doing sitting on the boards? Do you think it’s that easy? This, that and the other thing, get down from there. Right away, he got my attention. There were a lot of little things like that.”
Another time, Sauter talked a group of players out of getting tattoos.
“There were all these learning experiences, life experiences both on and off the ice my first couple of years in Brandon,” Kidd said.
A year later, the team again missed the playoffs, going 28-38-6, but Kidd made what would be the first of his three appearances for Canada at the world junior championship. Despite posting a 4.15 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage, Kidd was named the top goalie in the country by the Canadian Hockey League.
The Calgary Flames then selected Kidd with the 11th pick of the 1990 draft.
“Doug Sauter and Kelly McCrimmon, I’m thankful for the opportunities that they allowed me to have when I was 16, 17,” Kidd said. “Certainly I had to play and earn them, but just learning how to be a young adult, learning to be accountable for certain things, whether that be on the ice or off the ice.”
Kidd would never know a winning season in Brandon. In his third year, he was traded to the Spokane Chiefs during a season in which the Wheat Kings would go 19-51-2. But little did Kidd know at the time, the deal would prove to be a huge success for him and the single biggest transaction McCrimmon would make to resurrect the franchise.
“I joke with McCrimmon that it was possibly the trade that turned around the organization, with Marty Murray coming back,” Kidd said. “Within a year or two the Wheat Kings went on a heck of a run, making the playoffs and being a much better team.”
Along with Murray, the Wheat Kings received sniper Bobby House and goaltender Don Blishen for Kidd and defenceman Bart Cote.
Kidd, meanwhile, joined a Spokane team with star forwards Pat Falloon and Ray Whitney. After sweeping the Lethbridge Hurricanes to win the WHL title, Kidd made 30 saves in the Memorial Cup final as the Chiefs beat the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-1.
Kidd then moved on from the WHL. The Flames lent him to the Canadian national team for the 1991-92 season, where he played 28 games and earned a silver medal as backup to Sean Burke at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France.
His only game action was a 10-0 dismantling of Norway.
He also made his NHL debut with the Flames against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 3, 1992, before playing four more seasons with Calgary.
Kidd went on to spend time with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I was lucky enough to play 12 years,” Kidd said. “I never won a Stanley Cup and obviously when you get into the hockey world that’s the ultimate goal or achievement but that being said I take a lot of pride in having a very good career. I was fortunate to play in two Canadian markets, to play in Florida which I really enjoyed. When I look back I take a lot of pride in my junior career, playing in three world juniors, playing for the Chiefs and winning a Memorial Cup, that’s a huge part of my hockey career because I didn’t win a Stanley Cup.”
After the NHL lockout in 2004, Kidd played one final season in Europe, retiring after the 2005-06 campaign.
“I was just content,” he said. “I didn’t want to bounce around from team to team for the next three or four years and be in one city and then be in the next and in five or six or seven years call it quits and have my kids and family bounce around.”
Kidd thought it was also important that his daughters have friends and a neighbourhood that they could call their own.
But that didn’t make it any easier.
“It probably took me two or three years to watch a hockey game on TV,” he said. “Too many guys I knew were still playing and certainly there was a part of me that thought ‘Darn it. I should still be out there and playing.’”
His interest in being an entrepreneur led Kidd to found the Mountain Bean Coffee Company, opening and operating franchises in Winnipeg, Victoria and Toronto. He sold the company in 2010.
He thinks now it helped in his transition from the game.
After selling the company, Kidd took a couple of years to sort out what would come next.
He eventually joined the Gavin Management Group, a company that helps professional athletes manage their money, as a regional director in 2014. With players reaching the NHL sooner, Kidd works with players to educate them about their future finances.
He also does some work with TSN in Winnipeg.
His work — and Tiffany’s family — often bring him back to the Wheat City.
“Brandon is never really far out of sight or out of mind just because of her parents being there,” Kidd said. “Being together a long time — that goes back to when I was 17 — that would be my first thought. It’s not even hockey-wise. It’s family and life. I was fortunate enough to play there and meet my future wife and now three kids and all that kind of stuff.”
Kidd’s competitive athletic genes apparently transferred to the next generation. All three of his daughters are soccer players, with oldest daughter Taylor just finishing up a collegiate career at the University of Texas at El Paso, middle daughter Kennedy currently playing at the University of North Dakota, and Emerson, the youngest, set to follow in Taylor’s footsteps at UTEP.
He said the girls partly grew up while he was playing in Carolina and Florida, and girls’ hockey wasn’t on anybody’s radar. They played soccer instead, so eventually Kidd lent a hand with some coaching.
“It’s a lot of fun for me as a dad … to be part of that and see them achieve a goal and a dream of their own and play a sport they love and play it so competitively,” he said.
They certainly have a fine example in their father.
Kidd is one of four goalies receiving consideration as fans vote on the team’s 50-year WHL Dream Team. He is joined by Ron Hextall, Glen Hanlon and Tyler Plante.
“There’s a lot of pride to that,” he said. “I’m humbled by being recognized for that. Ron Hextall and Glen Hanlon, to be just mentioned alongside those two famous, very important, well-known NHL-junior netminders, now executives, one in the NHL and one in the WHL, I had to pinch myself when that first came out. Was this for real?
“Once that went away, it was all right family and friends, let’s stuff the ballot box,” he added with a laugh.
Kidd can scarcely believe that his junior years are now 25 years behind him. He remembers playing in Prince Albert, facing 75 shots, riding the bus home all night to arrive back in the city at 8 a.m., and heading to school for 9.
It’s clear that he relishes every minute.
“One thing that I say to young guys when I’m talking to the younger guys in Brandon is that every once in a while, just stop and smell the roses,” Kidd said. “It happens so darn quick, whether you’re going to the world juniors or Olympics like myself, just stop and smell the roses. Have a pinch, realize where you are in the moment that you’re in because it does happen so quick. One day you’ll be out of the game.”
Kidder’s former team plays its first game of 2017 Tuesday night when the Saskatoon Blades pay a visit to Westman Place for a 7pm start.