Despite being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the late rounds of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, he never was invited by the Flyers to participate in a training camp and came to North America as a free agent in 1997. He started in the lower reaches of the minors, first with the Baton Rouge Kingfish of the ECHL. He then joined the Manitoba Moose of the IHL for 14 games, going 8-4-1-1.
Hedberg also made the roster for Sweden at the 1998 Olympics in February and the World Championships in May.
He returned to Leksands for the 1998-99 season as their number one goaltender, playing in 48 games, as well as a return to the World Championships following the domestic season.
Hedberg returned to North America once again, playing the entire 1999-00 season with the Kentucky Thoroughblades of the AHL, going 18-9-5-3.
He began the 2000-01 season with the Manitoba Moose in the IHL, where he recorded a 23-13-7-1 mark prior to being traded in mid March to the Pittsburgh Penguins by the San Jose Sharks, who had acquired Hedberg's rights from the Flyers back in 1998 and were loaded with goaltending in their system the likes of Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala.
With Garth Snow dealing with a strained groin and Jean-Sebastien Aubin not playing well, Heberg was given the opportunity to see some action during the end of the regular season. He began with a 41 save performance in a 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers on March 16th, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning the next night. Heberg next recorded a tie with Boston before defeating New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Carolina to finish the season 7-1-1, creating some excitement in Pittsburgh.
After losing Game 1 and winning Game 2 in Washington, while giving up only 2 goals, Hedberg shut out the Capitals back in Pittsburgh in Game 3. During that game, Hedberg, still wearing his blue mask adored with the smiling moose from Manitoba, was supported by a ever-growing chorus calls of "Moooooose", which was painted in bold letters on the side of his mask.
The Capitals would fall in six games, making "Moose" 11-3-1 in his last 15 games. In the next round, the Sabres would take a 3-2 series lead, only to have the Penguins dig deep and win the series in overtime of Game 7 as the fans in Pittsburgh were now sporting yellow foam antlers as the "Moose" calls continued to become louder and louder. At the peak of the Penguins playoff fever, one fan even altered a sign in a Pittsburgh suburb, changing the name of Heidelberg to "He d berg"!
Hedberg would be the Penguins undisputed number one goaltender the following season, playing in 66 games only now with a mask in the colors of the Penguins, but there would not be another magical playoff run, as Pittsburgh sank in the standings, missing out on the playoffs entirely. The following season he would play in 41 games after suffering an injury.
During the offseason, Hedberg was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, where he backed up Dan Cloutier. He would play just 14 games with Leksands, now down in the second division during the 2004-05 season when the NHL season was cancelled before returning to the NHL with Dallas the following season where he backed up Marty Turco.
He signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07, playing there for four seasons, the first three behind the often injured Kari Lehtonen and the fourth while splitting time with Ondrej Pavelec.
The next stop for Hedberg was as a backup to Martin Brodeur in New Jersey. Previously backing up Brodeur would have guaranteed a goalie splinters as he would have ridden the bench for 70+ games, but injuries and the need for more rest for the veteran Brodeur meant Hedberg played 34 games in 2010-11 and in the just completed 2011-12 season, Hedberg was back in the Devils goal for 27 games, finishing with a fine 17-7 record, which allowed him to pass the 150 career wins mark.
Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Manitoba Moose Johan Hedberg jersey as worn by Hedberg during his time in Winnipeg prior to being traded to the Penguins.
The Moose were originally formed as an expansion team in St. Paul, Minnesota to fill the void created by the departure of the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas. After two seasons of play as the Minnesota Moose, speculation was that the Winnipeg Jets would be relocating to the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a plan was put in place to avoid competing head to head with an NHL franchise by moving to the vacated Winnipeg market.
While the Jets never arrived in Minnesota, moving instead to Phoenix, the deal was already in place to send the Moose north to Winnipeg, where they were renamed the Manitoba Moose.
While in Minnesota their dark jerseys were black with purple and forest green trim, but following their move to Canada, the green was given top billing, with black and purple as the secondary colors. In addition, perhaps the greatest font in the history of hockey jerseys was designed for the numbers, each digit incorporating an antler! The jerseys adopted by the Moose during their first season of play in Winnipeg featured a diagonal "check mark" waist stripe, which remained in use through the 2000-01 season, after which the purple color was replaced by copper and the waist stripe changed to a more conventional horizontal stripe.
In today's video section, Hedberg explains how his nickname "Moose" came about.
Next up is Hedberg while playing for Leksands IF during his return to Sweden during the labor stoppage of 2005.
Finally, highlights of Hedberg in action.