Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Kelly Hrudey: Two Autographed Cards

I was about a month old when Kelly Hrudey started playing as a rookie for the WHL's Medecine Hat Tigers, a season in which he'd appear in 57 games for the team that went 15-50-7, which explains why his goals-against average was 6.17; he brought it down to 4.17 the following season, posting a winning record (25-23-4) and convincing the New York Islanders to select him in the second round (38th overall) at the 1980 draft.

The following season, he was named to the WHL's Second All-Star Team after bring his GAA down to 3.97 and keeping an .895 save percentage, on his way to the professional ranks; he spent four seasons with the Central Hockey League's Indianapolis Checkers where he would hone his game to besome an eventual NHL starter in lieu of Isles star Billy Smith, winning the league's Best Goalie ("Terry Sawchuk") trophy twice, earning First Team All-Star status twice, winning the playoff MVP for the 1981-82 season and regular-season MVP the next year.

He split the 1983-84 season between the CHL and NHL and got to the Big Show full time in 1984-85, playing 41 games to Smith's 37 and Roland Melanson's 8, on an Isles team that iced no fewer than three 100-point players: Mike Bossy (58 goals, 117 points), Brent Sutter (42 goals, 102 points) and John Tonelli (42 goals, 100 points).

He would appear in more and more games each year, cementing his position as the #1 goalie up until and including the 1988-89 season, where he was a trade deadline after appearing in 50 games to the Isles, and sent to the Los Angeles Kings where he would appear in another 19 and be a fixture for eight years, culminating in a 1993 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

He would finish his career by spending two seasons with the San Jose Sharks alongside two other veterans - Ed Belfour and Mike Vernon - before retiring to Calgary and joining the Hockey Night In Canada/Sportsnet analysis teams for Calgary Flames games but also the national telecasts.

But today I want to focus on the earlier part of his career. This is an artist's rendering of what he looked like wearing the Tigers' Philadelphia Flyers-inspired uniform, on card #138 from In The Game's 2013-14 Heroes And Prospects set and Hockey Hero sub-set:
And this is him wearing his classic Jofa helmet-and-grid with the Islanders' blue (then-away) uniform, on card #123 from ITG's 2013-14 Between The Pipes set and Greats Of The Game sub-set:
That was his look when he set a record that would last 33 years, that of making 73 saves in a single playoff game - the seven-period "1987 Easter Epic", which stood until hours ago when Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets stopped 85 Tampa Bay Lightning shots in a bitter eight-period Game 1 loss.

And Hrudey took it well, as you can see here:

He seems humble, genuine and nice, which is the same feeling I had when I received those cards from him in the mail a few years back. I had written him a fan letter and joined those cards care of HNIC and they came back in roughly eight months. He signed them in black sharpie.

He's also been an advocate for mental health for a few years now, and even more so during the pandemic.

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