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Kelly Hrudey Remembers His Love Affair With Kings

Kelly Hrudey Remembers His Love Affair With Kings

Former NHL player and current CBC broadcaster Kelly Hrudey was honoured this past weekend by the LA Kings, writes Lisa Dillman in the LA Times:

His wife was eight months pregnant and goalie Kelly Hrudey, a New York Islander through and through, was hoping to stay with the franchise for his entire playing career, a la Steve Yzerman in Detroit.

Then came one stunning and uprooting phone call in late February 1989. Hrudey would be moving across the country, from the Islanders to the Kings in exchange for goalie Mark Fitzpatrick, defenseman Wayne McBean and future considerations.

He wasn’t thinking about joining Wayne Gretzky and the Kings. Hrudey was worried about career implications and an unfamiliar market.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I came here,” Hrudey said. “I was disappointed because I didn’t think I was coming to a hockey market and I didn’t want to be lost somewhere that really didn’t care about hockey.

“We went on a road trip and when I came back my first game at home was against Philadelphia. I fell in love with the place — immediately. I was like, ‘This is a great place to play hockey.’ The fans were energetic and it was cool playing on Wayne’s team.”

The love affair continued through 145 wins with the Kings. That, and a wondrous playoff run in 1993 in which the Kings reached the Stanley Cup Final, spawning hockey-playing youngsters trying to be cool like Hrudey, wearing his trademark blue bandanna.

Hrudey was able to take another curtain call of appreciation when the Kings honored him Saturday night as part of their Legends Series at Staples Center.

The occasion neatly coincided with Hrudey’s job with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, in which Hrudey, working the Kings-Flames game, provides insightful analysis and valuable perspective for the network.

Living and working in Canada, the Calgary-based Hrudey can’t escape seeing occasional highlights and clips from the 1993 playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final, in which Montreal beat the Kings after dropping the series opener.

“I can watch the Vancouver and Toronto games,” Hrudey said. “But I don’t really find any pleasure in watching any Montreal highlights. It doesn’t put me in a good place. Why do it?

“Of course, I see enough of the highlights. Even on our own network, we show Eric Desjardins’ hat trick on me. It’s my worst memory in hockey. I would suspect every single one of my teammates from that year would say that.”

Even during his playing career, Hrudey knew he wanted to eventually work in the media. He said he was “painfully shy” in his New York days but got over it by doing interviews on a consistent basis.

The learning process did not stop there.

“I wouldn’t watch the hockey, I’d watch the intermissions,” Hrudey said. “And I’d watch the interviews and pay close attention. Not only the broadcaster but the player.

“I wanted to hear how a broadcaster framed the question and then I wanted to know in what way a player would answer the question, so that he said something interesting, honest, revealing, without throwing people under the bus.”

Lisa Dillman/LA Times/March 9, 2013