Tait: Edmonton native Kelly Hrudey trusts his instincts as Hockey Night in Canada colour commentator
EDMONTON - Kelly Hrudey played 677 regular-season games and 85 playoff games in the NHL. He knows how important it is for every team member to carry their weight.
So when CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada decided to juggle its lineup this season, Hrudey was ready to step into the broadcast booth rather than walk through the studio door.
After being an in-studio analyst in Toronto for HNIC since 2008, Hrudey has filled in as colour commentator for western broadcasts of NHL games on Saturday nights.
It’s a change the 52-year-old Edmonton native is embracing.
“All I can do is sink my teeth into the new role and do the very best I can,” says Hrudey, who will be in town on Saturday for the Edmonton Oilers’ final regular-season game of 2012-13 against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place.
“I guess I liken the change to a forward on a hockey team, whether you’re on the first line, the fourth line or in between. It’s your job to be the best in that role.”
Taking on the new role for HNIC has been a challenge, Hrudey admits. He says he has had to learn to trust himself and his own thoughts.
“I really feel that, until three weeks ago, I may have had some stretches where I was OK — but for the most part I was very frustrated with my performance.”
But Hrudey says through talking with HNIC producer Brian Spear and other close friends he is now feeling more comfortable in his new job.
When Hrudey arrives in town Friday, he will be coming home. His first stop will be at his parents condo and then finding the nearest Tim Hortons.
Hrudey grew up in the community of Elmwood in Edmonton’s west end and started playing goal. He learned the meaning of perseverance early on.
“(In) my second year, I was cut from the first rep team I tried out for,” he says. “Luckily, my brother, Ken, convinced me to give it one more shot for a team that called when they heard I was released.”
Hrudey played midget A hockey for Inland Cement of the Canadian Athletic Club. He then made the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League in 1978. That’s when Bob Ridley became a strong influence.
Ridley drove the Tigers team bus and handled play-by-play duties — a role he still has.
Hrudey told the Journal in 2008 that he talked to Ridley for hours on the bus about entering the broadcast industry.
Hrudey was drafted in the second round (38th overall) by the New York Islanders at the 1980 NHL entry draft. After three seasons in the Central Hockey League with the Indianapolis Checkers, he broke into the NHL with the Islanders in 1984.
Hrudey made hockey history on April 18, 1987, when he made a record-setting 73 saves in a four-overtime Game 7 against the Washington Capitals to give the Islanders a 3-2 win at 2 a.m. ET.
He also played for the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks before retiring from the game after the 1997-98 season. He then joined HNIC full time.
Now that he’s handling colour duties during broadcasts, Hrudey feels closer to the game, especially when he visits Rexall Place.
“The No. 1 thing for me is I love the atmosphere and that alone gives me great energy and focus. Secondly, I grew up in Edmonton, so any time being back home is exciting, no matter how old I get,” says Hrudey.
So does he have any advice for the hometown Oilers.
“Nope,” says Hrudey, who now calls Calgary home, along with his wife and three daughters. “I’m just a broadcaster. I’m paid to tell people exactly what I think and why, not to give advice.”
Well, maybe not to the Oilers, but perhaps Hrudey has a few hints for the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL, where he is a part-owner.
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