LETHBRIDGE – A packed house was on hand for the 7th Annual Pronghorns Scholarship Breakfast in the 1st Choice Savings Centre gymnasium at the University of Lethbridge on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to listen to former National Hockey League goaltender and current Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Kelly Hrudey.
As the headliner of the event, Hrudey spoke for nearly a half hour about the importance of having good people around you to succeed, his history with good coaches and bad coaches, trust in yourself and those around you and always believing in yourself no matter how tough things may get, among other topics.
Originally from Edmonton, Hrudey is well known in Southern Alberta as he played junior hockey with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers for three years before being drafted by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft.
Having the opportunity to speak to young student-athletes is something Hrudey does throughout the year when he can make it work with his commitments because they have such an impact on young people in their communities.
“They’re role models, when you’re a university athlete young kids look up to you. Whether it’s elementary, junior high or high school. They’re looking at you and going ‘that could me, I could be playing university sports and going to school, fulfilling two lifelong dreams one day’. When I get an opportunity to speak at a place like the University of Lethbridge or others, if it fits into my schedule, I certainly make time,” Hrudey said.
Hrudey enjoyed a 15-year NHL career with the Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, playing alongside some of the game’s most legendary names, including Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky.
But it was his time in junior that was also of some interest, considering the big rivalry that’s always existed between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
“I think that’s the number one thing that stands out. It was a really intense rivalry, particularly in my second year in Medicine Hat because in my first year we weren’t very good. The Broncos were an excellent team, the Sutters were there at that time, and the rivalry really took off in my final two years.”
Hrudey joined CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada full-time in 1998-99, following four years of contributing to the show on a part-time basis during his final four seasons in the NHL.
In addition to his work as a studio analyst, Hrudey served as a co-host for the post-game show, After Hours, and also worked as a game analyst for western game broadcasts.
He joined the NHL on Sportsnet team in August 2014 and acts as a studio analyst for national broadcasts, including Hockey Night in Canada, and as a game analyst for Sportsnet’s Calgary Flames regional broadcasts.
For someone that’s as calm, cool and collected on television now, Hrudey admits the transition from playing to the analyst chair was difficult.
“Most people think if you’re a hockey player and you go into hockey broadcasting, they’re similar fields, but they’re not. One’s playing and one’s doing an entirely different job, even if it’s about the same sport. You want to try and make a point, and over time if you’re lucky enough to succeed and be around for a while, you have to try and make the same sort of thing sound differently. You’re talking about the same sorts of things all the time, so you have to find new things in the game and new ways to describe it. That’s always a challenge, but the fact of the matter is the game evolves and the game changes,” Hrudey stated, adding part of that is being excited about the changes, but needing to stay on top of things.
While Hrudey doesn’t have any direct connections to the U of L, as a western Canadian, he’s been invited to a number of universities from this side of the country and always tries to share his stories from the great game of hockey.
“I look at these opportunities as a chance to come to places I don’t normally get a chance to visit, and I always come in a night before or a day before to get involved a little bit in the community. That’s really why I’m here, they’ve invited me before and this is the first time I’ve been able to make it work.”
The Pronghorn Breakfast has raised more than $289,000 in support of Pronghorn Athletics programs. As part of its ongoing commitment to athletics, the University of Lethbridge once again matched $100 per ticket to the event, with the funds going directly to the teams.
“I do a lot of charity work as well like everybody does because you can’t do these types of things without sponsors,” Hrudey continued. “We’re forever grateful for them, and we give them name recognition but that doesn’t do it justice because if they don’t step up and actively get involved in the community, you can’t have events like this.”
When you have organizations that donate money, time and volunteers, Hrudey believes that’s everything.
“Student athletes, by and large, wouldn’t be able to afford their athletics without the support. It’s tough enough going to school and the cost of that because life is expensive.”
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