From Cal Burke to Charles Hudon, unlikely NHL players getting Avalanche opportunities


For one Avalanche newcomer, Colorado’s 4-0 loss Wednesday night was, in its own weird way, a surreal experience. For another, it was the latest opportunity to reflect and gather more wisdom.

The variety of reference points that form the patchwork of Avalanche hockey in December 2022 presents a fascinating coaching project for Jared Bednar. How long that project will last is unknown. One more game? A week? A month? It’s an unusual blip in time for a defending Stanley Cup champion, one that Bednar hopes can be useful.

“They’re going to learn as a group what it takes to be able to play in this league,” he said Wednesday night after the Bruins shut out the Avalanche (13-10-1).

On one hand, you have Cal Burke. He made his NHL debut at 25 years old, centering the fourth line. He’s from Boxborough, Massachusetts, and he was in high school when the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup. His favorite player on his favorite team?

“I feel awkward saying this,” he said, “but I grew up a (Patrice) Bergeron fan.”

Burke was compelled by Bergeron’s leadership skills in the captain role — traits that became useful for Burke to model himself after when he became the team captain for Notre Dame hockey.

Bergeron, as fate would have it, was on the Boston team Burke debuted against.

“Thought he played hard,” Bednar said. “Looked like a confident player. Hard-working player. Really hard-working player.”

Then you have Charles Hudon on the other hand. He had appeared in 125 NHL games starting in 2015 for Montreal when the Avalanche summoned him from the AHL. He hadn’t played in an NHL game since March 2020, right before the pandemic changed everything. Not wanting to remain on a taxi squad and play intermittently, he went to Switzerland to play the 2020-21 season in the league there.

After joining the Colorado Eagles in Loveland, Hudon and his family were pleased by the familiar surroundings: They could see the mountains from their house. They spent August exploring the region. When the season started, Hudon was struck by the how un-AHL the games felt. “The crowd, it’s insane,” he said. “The building, it’s crazy.”

What lingered was the desire to reach the NHL again. The journeyman said he had plenty of time to think and reflect on his career as he flew across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, where he joined the Avalanche.

“When you’re young, you always want to be better. … Most of the stuff that a coach says, that you see on the ice, goes in your backpack of skills,” Hudon said. “When you’re older, I think you learn more stuff around the team and around the hockey that’s helped you. And that’s what I did. I focused more on stuff that I’m not supposed to focus on when I was young.”


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