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Sauter, Bedway Headed for Hockey Hall of Fame

January 29, 2010
By SHAWN RINE, Sports Editor

WHEELING - Individually one was the Wheeling Nailers' first coach, and the other was the team's initial beat writer.

Together, Doug Sauter and retired Wheeling Newspapers Executive Sports Editor Nick Bedway are the second class of the Wheeling Hockey Hall of Fame, and will be inducted before tonight's 7:35 game against the South Carolina Stingrays.

Prior to the team moving from Winston-Salem, N.C., to Wheeling in 1992, Sauter said his only knowledge of the Friendly City was famed country radio station WWVA. But that was OK, because Bedway admits he had little more than a passing interest in the game of hockey to that point.

They turned out to be a perfect match.

''Nick, we had some great times and some great laughs,'' Sauter said Friday night from his Oklahoma City home, where a strong winter storm was threatening to keep him from tonight's ceremony. ''We kind of educated each other.

''He educated me on sports fans of the Ohio Valley and how big high school sports and high school wrestling was.''

Funny, because Bedway felt the same way. In fact, he went so far as to say, that if it weren't for the early success of the team and both Sauter's flamboyance and people skills, hockey in Wheeling might not have survived.

''Doug understood the importance of being part of his community,'' Bedway said. ''He became a pied piper, so to speak, in promoting the Thunderbirds.

''He was seen everywhere from the Soup Kitchen, to schools, hospitals, and paying for as many rounds as he was bought while visiting one of his favorite stomping grounds, the Alpha.''

For a guy who has made sports writing look so easy for 50 years, Bedway wasn't so sure about the idea of covering hockey. In fact, he says it was more than a little intimidating.

''It was very much a challenge that I'm not sure I felt confident about succeeding,'' he said. ''Most people, probably rightfully so, considered me to be a high school sports guy. Bill Van Horne, thankfully, covered many of the games at the start of the season before turning it over to me.

''I have to thank many of the coaches that worked for the T-Birds and Nailers for being so cooperative. Doug Sauter was especially helpful and answered all my questions respectfully.''

Bedway may not have been comfortable with hockey, but his legions of fans certainly were with him. His in-depth stories and weekly ''Nailers Notebook'' endeared him with fans so much they simply referred to him as ''Nailer Nick.''

''I guess everybody kind of got used to seeing me at the rink,'' Bedway said. ''I enjoyed going to the practices and talking with the fans during those times.

''My byline was on top of nearly every game story or preview for several years.''

One of Bedway's favorite memories was the team's first game.

''I was in the stands and I marveled about the packed house in the arena and jumping up and joining the excited crowd when Tim Roberts scored the first goal for our city's team,'' Bedway said. ''Also, the friendships and cooperation I received from nearly all of the coaches who worked in Wheeling, especially Doug Sauter, Tommy McVie, Peter Laviolette, Pat Bingham and Murray Eaves.

''And having the opportunity to write about the players who went on to make the NHL, and those who came close but didn't make it. Some of my favorites were ''The Captain'' Darren Schwartz, Devin Edgerton, Doug Schmidt, Vadim Slivchenko, Terry Virtue, Jason Jaffray, Stefan Brannare, and Timmy Roberts.''

Sauter's time here may have been brief, but it was certainly memorable. He was the team's coach its first three years in Wheeling, and what a run he enjoyed.

That 1992-93 Thunderbirds team won the regular-season championship and reached the Riley Cup Finals before being beaten in double overtime of Game 7 by the Toledo Storm.

Sauter recalls that game as being one of the most controversial of his career. Trailing heading to the third period and on the way to the dressing room for intermission, Sauter came upon a young fan who was holding a stick.

''I remember thinking one of my guys had given him a pretty nice stick,'' Sauter said.

The stick, he found out, actually belonged to Toledo defenseman Derek Booth. Desperate at that point, Sauter asked to borrow it because the curve appeared to be illegal.

''Called a timeout in the third period, called the team over and told them Booth's stick was illegal,'' Sauter said. ''I asked them 'should we call it,' and Darren Schwartz said '(absolutely) you call it.' ''

The Nailers did in fact tie the game and won to force a deciding game, where Sauter recalled Wheeling's Joel Blain ringing one off the post in the first overtime.

''I'll never forget his name. If that goes in we win a league championship,'' Sauter said. ''That's about as close as you can come.''

But even more so than what happened on the ice, Sauter was most fond of the city. He said it was a great place to raise a family and it had people ''that really stood behind us.''

''The whole community,'' Sauter said. ''A lot of other franchises have come and gone.

''It's a very nice honor. I looked back at my time in the Ohio Valley and in Wheeling as a very special time. My wife and two boys enjoyed it immensely.''

Now, both will be immortalized, together, with banners that will hang in the WesBanco Arena rafters forever.

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net

 
 

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