A conversation with Kelly Hrudey
Goaltender Kelly Hrudey will be honored on Legends Night prior to Saturday night’s game against the Calgary Flames. In advance of the on-ice ceremony, Hrudey attended Kings practice at the Toyota Sports Center on Friday morning and shared his recollections of his trade to Los Angeles, leading the Kings onto the ice in Game 7 in Toronto in 1993, and the feelings that swept through him when L.A. captured the Stanley Cup last spring.
Reporter: When you were traded to these guys, what was your reaction? Did you know something was in the works? And what did you think when you heard it was the Kings?
Kelly Hrudey: Hoo, boy. Very emotional time. We were playing at home. I want to say it was a Tuesday, and I hadn’t heard anything. Not a whisper. Nobody ever came to me and said, “Hey, listen.” Our team wasn’t playing very well at that time, and I wasn’t having a great season, myself, with the Islanders. Very inconsistent. But again, I hadn’t heard anything. We were playing at home against Detroit, and I’m playing that night, and I’m having my afternoon nap, and Donna came in and woke me up. I was like, “Wow, that’s something,” because normally she just lets me sleep. She woke me up and she said, “Hey, listen, I got a call from Lloyd…our lawyer, and said that he heard that we’re going to get traded.” Like, not rumors, but we are going to get traded. So I was like, “OK, well, where to?” and she said “L.A.” And then nobody called me or anything. And so I went to the game. I carpooled with Greg Gilbert, and I told him in the car, and he said, “No, nobody’s heard anything.” And nobody came up to me in the organization. I played that night, and I was out of sorts, for sure. I got smoked. I can’t remember the score, but I was awful. And then after the game, we were chartering to Buffalo to play, and Al Arbour came up to me in the dressing room when I was getting undressed, and he said “You’re going to stay home tonight. We’re going to rest you.” And I was like, “O.K., that’s pretty much confirmation.” And then, first thing in the morning, Bill Torrey called me – and by the way, I have the greatest respect and admiration for Bill Torrey and Al Arbour. It was just the game. And so Bill called me in. My brother was in town visiting, so he and I drove down to the Coliseum, and I’ve got to tell you, I was really disappointed. I was hopeful like every player that I was going to be like Steve Yzerman and play and win Cups and never have to move. Then I got the call from Rogie, and Rogie told me I’m on a plane that afternoon. Donna was eight months pregnant, so it wasn’t the easiest time to leave, and [we were] trying to figure out the logistics with all that. So I got on a plane. I didn’t know what to expect when I came here. I really have to say that 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, and I must say, when I first came here, we went on a road trip – three-game road trip – and when I came back, and my first game at home was against Philadelphia, I fell in love with the place immediately. Like, I was “Holy, this is a great place to play hockey, and the fans are energetic.” It was cool playing on Wayne’s team. Even though I had played on teams with really great players like Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy and Billy Smith – and the list goes on and on and on – to play on a team with Wayne was something I had never expected. I didn’t know his popularity was at that level. It put great pressure on us, because everywhere we went – I think Marty said it best – we never played in a building with an empty seat. It went everywhere, and that was great pressure on us, because even if you had a cold, or the flu or something, you didn’t want to let Wayne down. But it was very emotional. We were on a road trip in Montreal and Quebec – and Bruce McNall was great. Robbie Ftorek was great – I flew home. Donna was going to be induced. Luckily enough, she gave birth naturally. I got there, and we were able to do all that. Robbie gave me five days off, and he said, ‘you’re not coming back,’ and everything. Remember, back then that was just unheard of. Like, I felt really guilty. So I think it was after two or three days at home, my in-laws were in town – I don’t know if I was moping around, or what – but Donna said, ‘you’ve got to go. You have to get back to L.A. and you’ve got to play. That’s what you like to do,’ and stuff, and so I did. It changed my life. The trade, really, in the most positive way changed my life. I never would have expected that. My biggest growing years in my life, personally, were here. Lots changed in my professional life and personal [life]. It was cool.”
LA Kings Insider: In 1992-93, going into Game 7 in Toronto, what do you remember of the message going into that game, the environment in the locker room and leading the team onto the ice?
Kelly Hrudey: I just remember a bunch of us went out for dinner the night before. It was a Friday night the night before, and I was just personally reflecting. I can’t even remember the conversation, but it was always positive before a game, and I just remember thinking “This is what I dreamed about growing up. I’m going to play on a Saturday night, Game 7, in Toronto”, and just drinking that whole experience in, and never once feeling overwhelmed or that the challenge was too great. Just having a really positive attitude that tomorrow night’s going to be a really good night for us. I didn’t get too hyped up. I just prepared naturally the next day and just remember skating out onto the ice, and that is a magical building to play in. I just remember looking around, and [thinking] “this feels right”, and we got off to a great start. We knew Toronto was going to come back, and they had a good push back. Then we ended up going up three-two on an amazing goal by Wayne. Then Wendel Clark tied it up early in the third – and, in fact, I’ve always said this – Peter Zezel had a chance with about eight minutes to go in the third, and it wasn’t the most spectacular save I made, but it was the most important save I ever made in my life. I made it, and then as you know, we scored two late goals, and went up five-three, and Ellett scored to make it close. But I have never forgotten that save on Peter Zezel.
Reporter: You have said in the past that losing in the Final to Montreal was your biggest disappointment. So when you saw the Kings raise the Cup last season, what was going through your mind?
Kelly Hrudey: It was very emotional. I was trying to hold it in. It was just we were so close, and like I said, the experience that I went through in the Finals wasn’t very good, and I would suspect all of my teammates feel that same way, that it’s my biggest disappointment. Nothing even comes close to that. And so to see the Kings win last year was really exciting for all of us, and emotional, like I said. They earned it. They were a hard, hard team to play against the last couple months of the regular season. It carried right through, and they just steamrolled everybody.
Reporter: Going into tomorrow, what are your thoughts going in to Legends Night? What does it mean to be honored by the organization?
Kelly Hrudey: Kind of embarrassing. Nobody thinks that when you see all the great players that have played in this organization that somehow they’re going to choose you, that you’re going to be honored. So I’m very, very excited, very humbled. It’s hard to put into words. Luc told me last year in the playoffs that they’re going to do something for me this year, and I thought “That’s really cool.” And then when he called me in the summer and told me the date, if there was not going to be a lockout, then it really started to sink in that this is really cool. Because I kind of said, I don’t like to say this often, but I think most people know it: my time here in L.A., they were my best eight years of hockey – both living and playing hockey. I loved New York. I loved San Jose. But there was just something really special about our time here in Los Angeles, and my family still loves it here. It’s just a great, great place to play.