Friday, September 9, 2016

Kelly Hrudey Autograph Card

Don't let his career GAA of 3.43 and .893 save percentage fool you, Kelly Hrudey played in the 1980s and early 1990s, which has a tendency to skew with perceptions.

I'm not saying Hrudey was on a Grant Fuhr or Bill Ranford in their prime level, let alone that of a Patrick Roy, but he was a top-10 goalie for a lot of his career. As a matter of fact, he finished top-5 in Vezina Trophy voting three times: fifth in 1985-86 and third in 1987-88 (with the New York Islanders, who had selected him 38th overall at the 1980 draft), as well as fourth in 1990-91 while with the Los Angeles Kings.

He played his final two seasons (1996-98) as the veteran backup to Chris Terreri/Ed Belfour and similarly-on-a-down-slope Mike Vernon with the San Jose Sharks.

Though many recall his bandana-wearing days with the Isles the most - particularly the 72-save, seven-period Easter Epic  - I, as a local to the Montréal Canadiens and Wayne Gretzky super-fan - tend to think of him as a King first and foremost; it was with L.A. that he got his final Vezina-conversation-worthy season(s), and his play leading to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992-93 was stellar... he just got exposed against the Habs, who had Roy to practice on during their off days.

Hrudey liked being an original, and that was reflected on his Kings helmet, which he had painted as others did their masks, despite being a regular Jofa cage, which I also wore at the time:
That's card #A-KH from In The Game's 2012-13 Decades - The 1990s set (and Autograph sub-set, signed in black sharpie), showing him in the Kings' (best) black (away) uniform.

Hrudey has been one of Canada's best hockey analysts since moving onto Hockey Night In Canada following his retirement. For a while, there, he was probably even the best, although the competition has stiffened in the past decade; he remains the best example of a former player who fully understood the game being able to simplify it and explain it to the masses. In that regard, he was indeed a game changer.

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