Mike Kadar’s career in the National Hockey League has had its ups and downs, but he couldn’t be much higher than he is now.
Kadar is the strength and conditioning coach for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Saturday he gets his day with the Cup.
Kadar will have the Stanley Cup at the Elnora community hall from 8:30 a.m. to around 12:30 p.m., then enjoy the rest of the day with his family at his parents home.
Kadar joined the Pens prior to the 2007-08 season and couldn’t have come at a better time. The Penguins reached the Cup final two seasons ago before losing to the Detroit Red Wings, then took it a step further this year when they beat the Wings in the final.
“This is all a dream come true,” said Kadar, a former forward with the RDC Kings hockey team.
“It’s the next best thing to being a player. I’m associated with the team and feel I’m an important piece of the puzzle.”
Kadar was on the ice for the post-game celebrations following the Pens final game victory and hoisted the Cup along Sydney Crosby and friends.
He has his name on the Cup and will receive a championship ring.
The 40-year-old originally signed a two-year contract with the Pens and for his efforts just received a two-year extension.
Kadar first played with the RDC Kings in the 1988-89 and ‘89-90 seasons before spending a year with Melville in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
He returned to RDC the following season, then transferred to the University of Lethbridge to finish his Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education. He also worked in massage therapy and athletic training.
“Once I graduated I stepped away from hockey and got on with my life,” he explained.
“But after a few years I got the itch to get back into it.”
Kadar contacted former Kings boss and present Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who was with the Spokane Chiefs at the time, and Ray Bennett, who was also a former RDC coach and was with the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant to Andy Murray.
“Ray had me come down to LA and they were impressed and invited me to work on an internship, which lasted for three years.”
Kadar signed with the Kings and worked a year with their farm team in Manchester, N.H., then joined the Kings for four years. He was let go the same time as Murray and Bennett were fired, but new head coach Marc Crawford rehired him. But that didn’t last long and he once again found himself without a job.
But he had impressed several people and one of those was LA Kings forward Anze Kopitar.
‘Kopitar’s dad was with the Slovenian national team and they offered me a chance to work with them at the world B championships, which they won.”
Kadar spent several weeks travelling in Europe following the championships and once he returned home he was offered a contract by Derek Armstrong of the LA Kings to work as a personal trainer in Colorado.
While in Colorado Kadar was contacted by former RDC King and Florida Panthers scout Erin Ginnell, and told of a position in Pittsburg. Two of the names he had on his resume were Luc Robitaille, who was close with Pens owner Mario Lemieux, and Andy Murray, who knew Pens GM Ray Shero.
“I flew in and received a two-year contract, it couldn’t have worked out better,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to work with Mario and with Syd (Sydney Crosby). But I said when I first got a job in the league it was a total honor and privilege to work in this league.”
Working with Crosby is also an eye-opener.
“Syd works as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen on the ice. At times he’s so spent when he gets off I can’t see him doing anything else, but that’s not the end of his day. In fact it doesn’t matter if he plays well or not, or if they win or lose, people want his time. I’ve seen him come in late from facing the media and then has to work out. It’s a tough gig.”
But Crosby still makes sure he’s in shape.
“As do all the guys,” said Kadar. “Hockey players are good honest people, who love the game. And today they need to be in top condition when they come to camp. There’s lots of money out there, which can be in their pockets, so they need to be in shape.”
And that’s where Kadar comes in.