spotlight on the opponent: jiri hudler

Jiri hudler

Our old friend, Jiri Hudler, is off to a good start with the Flames. Hudler has 5/8/13 in 12 games so far, and has registered a point in all but two games so far this season.

Some have called Hudler the Flames’ MVP this season, and Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg has taken notice of his former teammate and friend’s hot start.

“He’s a good player, and there’s a reason why Calgary went after him (in free agency in July 2012),” Zetterberg told the Detroit News. “He’s not a big guy but he plays big and he has real good balance. He’s strong, and can play the net front. He’s a great kid and obviously we miss him.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sounds, now, like a man who never wanted to see Hudler leave, despite Jiri’s falling out of favor with Detroit fans near the end of his stay with the Red Wings—and despite Babcock’s own frustrations with Hudler at times.

“He’s brilliant with the puck, he knows how to play,” Babcock also told The News. “He was in a good organization for a long time and he learned how to play without the puck. I think he’s a real good player, I really do.”

Hudler’s time in Detroit ended on a sour note, but he’s kicked it up a notch or two in Calgary. Hudler wears no. 24 with the Flames.

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January 21, 1973: First-ever Red Wings game

Olympia interior

It was January 21, 1973. My first Red Wings game, at the old Olympia Stadium—Minnesota at Detroit. I was nine years old.

It’s funny—I can remember lots of details about that day, but not very much about the game itself.

The game was played on a Sunday afternoon—actually, at 12 noon exactly, which was a strange starting time, but the game was featured as NBC’s “Game of the Week,” so maybe that had something to do with the noon face-off.

Two men come to mind, who I would eventually meet and get to know a little bit in person, in my adult years—and who were a sidebar to that game.

One was Budd Lynch, who at the time served as Bruce Martyn’s partner in the radio and TV booths.

Before the game, my parents and I were relaxing near a concession stand, when Lynch appeared, out of nowhere. I am guessing he was on his way to the press elevator.

Anyhow, I was the one who ID’d him—not my folks, which would start a lifelong trend of me noticing public figures in, well, public.

My dad had bought me a game program—it had defenseman Larry Johnston on the cover—and so my folks approached Lynch and asked for an autograph, for me, on the program.

Lynch was very friendly and gracious, as usual.

About 13 years later, I would speak to Lynch again—this time as a producer/director in local cable TV Downriver, when Budd was kind enough to be our guest on a sports talk show.

The other man from 1/21/73 who I would meet later on and get to know a bit was Ted Lindsay.

“Terrible Ted” — who is anything but that, by the way—was doing color commentary that afternoon with play-by-play guy Tim Ryan, for NBC.  Later on—some 20 years or so—I would meet Ted again, also by way of my cable TV job. But unlike Lynch, who I met just once more, I would run into Ted several times. One of my biggest thrills was moderating a hockey roundtable discussion in which Ted, Shawn Burr and Johnny Wilson took part.

Burr and Wilson are gone, of course—sadly.

As I said before, I remember other details than the game itself.

We stopped and had breakfast at Big Boy’s, for example. I remember watching the players skating around the ice during warm-ups. And I remember a fight in the concourse after the game between two fans, as we walked by.

I remember being in the car, reading my game program, while Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” played on the radio.

Funny, eh?

The Red Wings lost, 5-3. The few snippets of the game itself that I remember are very few indeed.

Andy Brown, one of the last maskless goalies in the NHL, started in net for Detroit. And he was awful, being pulled early in the first period after a pair of soft goals. Roy Edwards replaced him.

I do recall that the North Stars scored an empty net goal—a shot from around center ice that a Red Wing player dove at in an attempt to stop it.

And that’s it. Nothing about the game itself do I remember.

Maybe that’s not unusual, after all. Maybe because the whole experience was awe-inspiring to me, not just that it was an NHL hockey game, kind of emphasized the non-game elements of that day.

By the way, a little more than a year later—March 23, 1974—I was at Olympia when Mickey Redmond scored his 50th goal of the season for the second year in a row. It was a slap shot past the Rangers’ Ed Giacomin.

Please feel free to share your experiences from your first-ever Red Wings game that you attended, in the comments section!