Historically, goaltending hasn’t been one of the strongest facets of the Kings organization. Yes, they had Rogie Vachon in the ’70s and now have Jonathan Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe trophy winner. However, the only other sustained high point you could really reference in between those two would be the eight years Kelly Hrudey spent in Los Angeles during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Critics might argue his numbers weren’t that impressive. And while he’ll openly admit he wasn’t the best goaltender of his generation, Hrudey did win 271 games in his career and is still second in Kings franchise history for appearances (360) and wins (145).
Of course, he’s probably best known as the bandana wearing guy who manned the crease during the Kings 1993 run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Yesterday Hrudey was on the MayorsManor show and told some great stories about his playing days and what he’s been going through while preparing his speech for tonight’s Appreciation Ceremony – where he’ll be honored by the Kings as part of their Legends Night series.
He’s also been a guest on MayorsManor a number of times in the past, providing interesting insight and perspective on his playing days.
With that in mind, we thought we’d re-publish portions of an interview that first appeared on the site back in 2009 [full interview here]. During a conversation with Hrudey at that time, we started digging in on some of what really went down during the 1992-93 season and the years leading up to that memorable playoff run. Take a look…
MM: The pivotal point in your career was the trade to LA. Can you talk about finding out you were headed to the West Coast?
Well, I have different feelings now than I did at the time, 20 years ago. I was disappointed to be traded to LA. I was like every player, I thought I was going to be drafted by a team, play there for 20 years, win championships and then retire…all with one team. Like Steve Yzerman did. It didn’t work out that way for me. But LA was exciting. It felt more like my team. In New York I had my good friend Billy Smith. In LA I felt like it was my team though. And the city was fantastic! I feel the biggest growth period of my life were the 10 years in LA. I just loved the people. Believe it or not, it reminded me a lot of western Canada where the people are so laid back. It was a great time for me on and off the ice.
The Kings won the Smythe Division in 1991 with a very powerful team. How close was that group to going all the way?
I thought we were real close. We just didn’t know how to win. The Oilers had so much experience and they just knew how to win. Every time we ran into those guys, it just seemed like we didn’t have enough to beat them. Tom Webster coming on as our coach added a defensive element to our game. But, still, we just couldn’t beat Edmonton. I really believed if we could just beat those guys we would have won a championship. We’ll never know though.
In the first half of ’93 Gretzky was hurt, yet the team played well without him…
We knew it would be a real challenge without him. You can ask players to rise up in a situation like that, but fact is you’re not as good of a team without Wayne. Everybody did pick up their game though and played to their highest level. That was very rewarding for the group. Unfortunately, soon after that was also when I went through the worst slump of my career…It was late November, early December and I went on about a two month slide. It was the worst slump of my career. I made it through that dark period because of two people in my corner…and I tell them ‘thank you’ whenever I get a chance…Cap Raeder and Barry Melrose. I was able to play five more years in the league because of their support during that stretch.
Robb Stauber played pretty well that year. Was that adding pressure to what you were already going through?
Robb deserved to be in there. I remember when I knew I was going to be OK though. It was a game on January 28th. I played my best game in awhile. We lost to Calgary 2-1, but I felt like I was back. I had a few bad games down the stretch, but then there was a game where we beat Philly 3-1 in March. That’s when I knew I was going to be OK. I wasn’t 100%, but when we won I was real emotional in the locker room. I thanked all the guys for sticking with me because they could have easily given up on me. But Robb had played so strong he deserved the action he was getting too.
When Stauber replaced you in the playoffs he won three in a row against Calgary. Did you start to worry, did it mess with your head at all after what you had been through that season?
Well we started the playoffs against Calgary. We were awesome in game one. Then, awful in game two. We lost game three, but neither team looked like world beaters. We were down 2-1 in the series. Robb played in game four and we won 2-1 to even the series. Barry stuck with Robb in games five and six; one them was like an 8-5 shootout. He won the series, so he got the start in game one against Vancouver…and rightfully so. We lost that first game. I think it was an afternoon game. Immediately following the game Barry called me into his office and told me I was going to start game two. Fortunately, we had a couple days off until game two so I had plenty of time to prepare for them.
I felt that was really when we got on track. To me that was the best series we ever played. Personally I felt that Vancouver was on the cusp of something at the time. And I guess I was right, they went to the Stanley Cup finals the next year. But at the time, that was a real test for us. The Toronto series was different. The intensity was the same, but our level of play started to drop. I think the travel was starting to get to us.
What were your first thoughts when you heard the Kings were hiring a rookie coach in Barry Melrose?
Well, I was established in LA by that point, so I wasn’t too worried. Of course, I wanted to make a good first impression on my new coach. But, I was lucky to have Cap Raeder. As time went on I think I endeared myself to Barry. The slump I mentioned took our relationship to the next level. I wish all players could have a guy like Barry around them. Like an Al Arbour. It’s such a good feeling when you go home after practice or a game and that’s your coach.
Looking back on your career, you finished with 271 wins. Do you think about being so close to the magical 300 number?
No, not at all. I don’t live that way. I did as best as I could and I loved playing the game of hockey. I wasn’t lackadaisical and got a ton out of my career. I approached every game the same way. I thought I was better than the other guy. That’s what I told myself when I looked down at the other end of the ice.
When you were playing, who were some of the most underrated guys you played with?
Tim Watters, Charlie Huddy, Steve Konroyd, Pat Conacher, Todd Gill, Tony Granato. Those are guys that all competed every night and gave everything of their body. Todd Gill was a mediocre, skinny player but he was tough and communicated exceptionally well. Very underrated.
Interview with Robb Stauber – the man who battled Hrudey in net during the Kings ’92-93 season
Interview with Rob Blake – the most controversial player in Kings history stops by MayorsManor
20 Questions with #20 – Luc stops by MayorsManor a few days before entering the Hall of Fame
Interview with Gary Shuchuk – Kings playoff hero in 1993
Word Association with Tony Granato – comments on former Kings players
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