Dr. Don (Doc) Hedges - Province Obituary
Pat Coyle knows Dr. Don (Doc) Hedges’ story as well as anyone could and he believes we’ll never have a legitimate count of how many people Hedges has helped.
Hedges was a Coquitlam Adanacs executive for 25 years, including an extended run as team president. The Adanacs went to five Mann Cup Senior A lacrosse national finals during his tenure with the Western Lacrosse Association club and they are the last Lower Mainland team to win that championship, thanks to their triumph in 2001.
Hedges died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was 72.
In real life, Hedges headed up a New Westminster medical practice that focused on addiction. Coyle, who was a star defender on the 2001 Adanac team, was among his patients. Now coaching with the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth, Coyle has been clean for 27 years.
Hedges would never have discussed any of what he did as a doctor. He was far too professional. By various accounts, he was also far too humble to get into the day-to-day helping hands he offered up along the way.
Coyle, who played for the Adanacs from 1994-2005 before coming out of retirement for a brief stint in 2009, and others like him have talked about how Hedges tried to introduce them to new cuisines and new authors. Hedges spearheaded groups of players going to Costa Rica, where they’d teach the game and learn another culture at the same time.
Curtis Hodgson was contemplating getting into education in the midst of taking a kinesiology course at SFU taught by Hedges. Hedges got wind of that, and soon had Hodgson leading the course lecture to give him an idea of what the profession was like. Hodgson, 41, is now a vice principal at Burnaby North, as well as an assistant coach with the NLL’s Vancouver Warriors.
That’s a little of what Coyle means when he talks about “there’s no one that I know that has had that kind of affect on so many people.”
“I wish somebody would really get into it and do some research, because I think if someone did that his name would be on a building somewhere or something like that,” continued Coyle, 53, who now coaches the Adanacs in the WLA as well. “He would never let you know about any of it.
“I feel like he saved my life or, at the very least, definitely changed my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. I wouldn’t have a family. I wouldn’t be coaching.
“The addictions recovery work was what he would have chosen if he could do just one thing. I know he was a staple in the recovery community. It’s one thing to help someone become a better lacrosse player or soccer player or rugby player or to help them get through an injury in a game, and he did all that, but also he did so much more.”
Hedges worked with other sports besides lacrosse, with stints with the Vancouver 86ers/Whitecaps, Burnaby Lake Rugby and the New Westminster Hyacks high school football squad. Lacrosse always seemed to be his greatest attachment, though.
His Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame biography from his 2011 induction as a builder refers to him as “the lacrosse player’s doctor.” Competitors from various teams regularly turned to Hedges for advice on injuries and ailments. It was commonplace to see him come out of a dressing room after administering stitches to an Adanac rival.
Coyle isn’t certain where that affinity for the sport originated. He recalls a story about Hedges being dragged along to a game at Kerrisdale Arena back in the day and Hedges being hooked instantly.
That connection never wavered. Coyle says that when he visited Hedges in his final three or four months Hedges was regularly wearing his championship ring from 2001.
“He was really proud that we won,” Coyle said.
Curt Malawsky was a member of that 2001 Adanac team. He now coaches in the NLL with the Calgary Roughnecks. Malawsky recalls how Hedges would routinely say how proud he was of everyone. He hopes that Hedges understood how mutual the feeling was.
“Doc Hedges is a lacrosse legend in my mind,” Malawsky, 52, added. “What he has done for our game and the people associated with it is unquantifiable. He will always be known as a very caring, selfless man.”
Russ Heard, 58, a former WLA star with the Burnaby Lakers, added: “Doc was universal. He was everybody. You’ll never find anybody who has a bad word to say about him.”
According to Hedges’ own LinkedIn page, he “provided thousands of expert opinions in addiction medicine and recognized as an expert in addiction medicine by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the British Columbia Court of Appeals, the Human Rights Tribunal and in labour relations hearings.”
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