Former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey spent 15 years in the NHL, winning 271 games. He even helped lead Wayne Gretzky’s LA Kings to the Stanley Cup Final during the 1992-93 season.
Saturday, after witnessing Vitek Vanecek’s first-period injury in Game One, Hrudey, now a Sportsnet analyst, shared a strong take about why he thought the Capitals’ rookie goaltender got hurt.
It certainly got social media buzzing.
this kelly hrudey rant just seems so fucking pointless
blaming "not stretching enough" is just silly pic.twitter.com/Q9Clil0P6p
— Mike Pfeil (@mikepfeil_) May 16, 2021
“Oh boy. Where do you start and where do I want to go?” Hrudey said. “I guess there’s a part of me, I’m supposed to feel sorry for Vanecek. His first-ever NHL playoff start. First of all, this is a bad goal. He just wasn’t ready. You could tell immediately something was wrong.
“I’m sorry if you’re an NHL goaltender, you should not be pulling or straining a muscle. That’s one of your jobs: to make sure you’re stretched out. Whether that means you stretch eight to ten times in the course of a day before the game to make sure this doesn’t happen… I mean, you’ve got to be a better pro than that.
“It’s unfair to the organization. It’s unfair to Craig Anderson. Anderson in a week is going to be 40-years-old. I just think that when you’re in that position, you’ve got to do all you can to make sure you’re stretched out. Now if you have a different structural injury: you hurt your knee, your shoulder, or your wrist, I’m all good with that. Then I do feel empathy or sympathy for you, but not a pulled muscle.”
Hrudey was roundly criticized on Twitter for suggesting that an NHL goalie can’t pull a muscle if they stretch enough before a game.
I’m glad Hrudey is getting criticized for this, btw. Professional athletes aren’t immune from the basic injuries the human body can sustain, and we need to stop acting like they are. https://t.co/IQwheKPZYe
— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) May 16, 2021
Well, that’s an interesting point of view 🙄 https://t.co/Gn56A4QyAK
— Ann-Renée Desbiens (@adesbiens30) May 16, 2021
I like Hrudey just fine, but I find it tough to criticize someone for getting hurt. https://t.co/Vh2eQxXv0F
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) May 16, 2021
The comments seem over-the-top too considering Vanecek’s performance in the regular season. He was one of the most durable goaltenders in the NHL. Vanecek started 36 of 56 games (64 percent) for the Capitals. His 37 appearances were the seventh-most in the NHL. He won the sixth most games overall. He did this as a rookie despite the pandemic-shortened campaign featured a grueling, compacted schedule.
Vanecek played in his 38th game this season on Saturday – the second-most of his professional career. The only season he had more came in 2016-17 where he appeared in 43 games for the Hershey Bears in an uncondensed season (39 games in the regular season and 4 in the postseason).
Meanwhile, it’s possible Vanecek may have been nursing something heading into the playoffs.
No Vitek Vanecek at Capitals' optional morning skate ahead of their game vs Boston. Craig Anderson, Zach Fucale and Pheonix Copley are the goalies on the ice.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 11, 2021
So while I’m not an NHL goalie (I did play 2 games in goal in UMBC floor hockey intramurals) and do not have Hrudey’s vast experience, I do feel confident saying this was an oversimplistic opinion and just a generally not nice thing to say – even if there’s a morsel of truth to what he said.
Get better soon, VV.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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