Detroit Red Wings Follow @DetroitRedWings on Twitter! Follow the Red Wings on Facebook! Follow @DetroitRedWings on Instagram! Follow OfficialDRW on Snapchat! Get Red Wings Email Updates Get Red Wings Text Updates Get the Detroit Red Wings Official Mobile App

  • RSS

Wings are delighted Hudler took up hockey

Monday, 05.11.2009 / 11:34 AM ET / News
By Larry Wigge  - Columnist
Share with your Friends

Wings are delighted Hudler took up hockey
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said if he was going to start a baseball or softball team, Jiri Hudler would either play shortstop or short center field.
You could see why after Hudler batted a puck out of mid-air over Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller's shoulder early in the first period for the game-winning goal in a 4-1 victory against Anaheim Sunday to give the Red Wings a 3-2 series lead.

"Baseball?" Hudler said. "No, I've never played baseball. I've swung a tennis racket, however. I guess that's different, eh?"
Just a little, Jiri.
It's ironic that we started this conference semifinal series between the Wings and Ducks talking about Hudler and how he was knocked to the ice when Anaheim's Mike Brown either hit him with an elbow or shoulder high over his left eye. Now, Hudler bats in the game-winning goal in Game 5.
"I remember all the blood. I wasn't scared, but there was a lot of blood," Hudler said, revisiting the painful incident in the first period of Game 1. "I remember looking in the mirror after the game, seeing the stitches. And now I see the scar. But that's hockey. It's the playoffs. You do what you have to do to battle for every inch on the ice.
"What I remember most is we scored on that power play (a five-minute penalty to Brown) and won the game."
It's clear that Hudler is a difference maker, even if teams kept passing on him until the Wings picked him with the 58th choice in the 2002 Entry Draft.
Hudler, who stands 5-10 and weighs 182-pounds, has proven time and again in his five seasons in the NHL that he has enough staying power to keep going to the tough areas of the ice in front of the net to help the Red Wings win. That's the long and short of it.
"’Huds’ never shies away from getting in the heavy traffic ... and he's got great hand-eye coordination as you saw (Sunday)," Lidstrom said. "I'm sure there's even a bigger smile on Huds face after what happened to him in Game 1."
Explosive. Quick off his mark. Talented in the open. Gutsy, with a get-even attitude. That's Hudler, who is often at his best in the playoffs. Of his five goals in 22 playoff games last year, two were game-winners. Add another GWG against the Ducks Sunday.
Baseball? No, I've never played baseball. I've swung a tennis racket, however. I guess that's different, eh? - Jiri Hudler
"I saw Hank's shot go off of Hiller's shoulder and then kind of lost it," Hudler said of Zetterberg's shot that ricocheted high into the air before it came down to a Jiri-on-the-spot goal-scorer. "Honestly, I thought it was going to wind up behind the net. Then, suddenly, I saw it about a second before I got my stick up to hit it. I almost swung and missed."
"He's a little guy, but he's competitive. He's strong. He holds onto pucks. He's as good as anybody on our team in finding the space to make a dynamic play," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "What I like about Huds most is that he had continued to challenge himself to get better. That's why he's playing the important minutes he's getting now compared to last year."
Fearlessness. On-ice vision. Deceptive quickness. An instinct that allows him to worm his way to the right place at the right time. A hockey sense behind his age. All Hudler really needed was a chance. And the more playing time he gets, the more impressive he's becoming.
"Hockey is not about size," Hudler said. "If you play smart, if you play with good players, you can play in any league."
Hudler had career-highs with 23 goals and 34 assists in the 2008-09 season, not bad for a guy who usually plays on Detroit's third line. But he wasn't always looked upon as a difference maker, even in Detroit, where he had just 28 points in his first 92 games. That coming after he had 36 goals and 61 assists for an eye-popping 97 points in 76 games for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League in 2005-06.
Too small, too this, too that. We’ve heard it before, yes, even when scouts were talking about Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. I think it's safe to say that if Hudler was two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier, he would have been in the Top 10 of the 2002 draft, instead of slipping to late in the second round.
Hudler was born in the industrial city of Olomouc in east central Czech Republic, an ancient town that was once the leading city of Moravia and today is known for its candy, chocolate and many fountains. He moved to Vsetin when he was 12-years-old, living with his father, also named Jiri, after his parents divorced. A defenseman in his playing days, Hudler's father coached his son before the boy graduated to the Czech Elite League at 16.
Detroit Red Wings Playoff Gear"I always played with older players, sometimes three years older, even when I was really small," Hudler said. "So I knew I could compete against better players. I just had to prove it ... to a lot of people.
"Now, I get pumped knowing I’m going to play. It feels great. I feel more confident right now. It's the real season now. I love the atmosphere, the competition."
Don't be misled by the fact that this mini difference-maker is playing in third- or fourth-line roles. Fourth-line players don't often draw a lot of attention at this time of the year, unless you look back at the history of some of the great Red Wings teams of the past. Remember Luc Robitaille and Igor Larionov in 2002? They were big-time fourth-line contributors for the Red Wings in the team's third Stanley Cup-winning season in six years.
Hudler won't complain about the slow nurturing process, knowing full well that every kid from Saskatoon to Olomouc wants to play a lot ... and play right now.
"Playing in the NHL is a dream of every hockey player," Hudler said. "I was lucky I got an opportunity to see the speed and skill of the NHL in one of my first years in North America. I was lucky it was Detroit that drafted me and not someone else. I got to learn on the job, learn the right way to do things.
"I just had to have patience. At first, I admit, you look around and see all the talent and wonder if you're good enough to get a shot at the big leagues. But the Red Wings put young guys in a position to gain confidence. And, when you're ready, you're going to play."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80