Rick Dudley Biography
Claim to Fame: NHL executive and former player (Buffalo Sabers)
DOB: January 31, 1949
Diabetes Type: Unknown
We all know the image of the toothless hockey star with the broken nose, stitches, and quick temper; the player who heedlessly shoves, trips and punches, not caring about the penalties accrued or the time spent in the box. However, no caricature can stand up to real-life hockey tough-guy, Rick Dudley. A gritty, indomitable, and unruly force, Dudley wrestled his way to NHL fame with a shocking 272 penalty minutes over the course of 51 games during the 1971-72 season.
Born in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, Dudley first put stick to ice as a boy, passing the puck with friends. As he perfected his game, he began playing for the Central Professional Hockey League’s Iowa Stars. In 1970, Dudley divided his playing time between the International Hockey League’s Flint Generals, based out of Flint, Michigan, and the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Barons, based out of Cleveland, Ohio. Though a consistent player, Dudley failed to generate the attention he deserved and left both the Flint Generals and the Barons.
Originally not aggressive, Dudley felt that, in order to stand out as a player, he must adopt a more potent persona, one that could convey his determination and talent, while turning heads. In 1971, Dudley joined the AHL’s Cincinnati Swords, where he set to work creating his new bad boy image. His forceful approach seemed to work, resulting in a 29-point season with more shots on goal, greater time on the ice, and a boost in confidence. During his last year with the Swords, Dudley had 40 goals, 44 assists and a total of 84-points for the entire season. Still collecting close to 159 minutes in penalties, Dudley was finally a powerhouse player and a point of interest for many NHL teams, particularly the Buffalo Sabres.
In 1972, Dudley was called upon to play for the Sabres. At the start, the hockey star only participated in a couple of games, none of which were particularly noteworthy. However, by the 1973-74 season, Dudley was a key player and had accumulated over 13 goals. By the 1974-75 season, Dudley was comfortable and determined to show his skill. His power and force proved fundamental in sending the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals and, at the end of the season, he amassed close to 70 points.
Following his incredible success with the Sabres, Dudley joined the World Hockey Association’s Cincinnati Stingers. A reliable scorer, Dudley remained with the Stingers for four seasons. Unfortunately, the WHA only lasted until 1979, at which point Dudley returned to the NHL and the Sabres. He remained with his old team for only two seasons, the second of which he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets halfway through. In 1981, Dudley joined the AHL’s Fredericton Express, based out of Fredericton, New Brunswick. At the end of the 1981-82 season, Dudley decided to hang up his skates and retire from the ice.
Though no longer cutting through the ice, Dudley remained involved in the sport from the box as coach and owner of the various league teams throughout the 80’s. In 1989, Dudley, again, found himself with the Sabres, this time fulfilling the duties of head coach. In 1992, he was fired from the Sabres and began coaching in the IHL, returning to the NHL in 2003 to coach the Florida Panthers.
Dudley has been the manager for a number of teams and has had an impressive executive career with a number of leagues and associations. From 1983 to 1986, he served as the East Coast Hockey League’s president, as well as coach and manager of the league’s Carolina Thunderbirds. In 1998, Dudley served as general manager of the Ottawa Senators before taking a position with the Tampa Bay Lightening, followed by the Florida Panthers. In 2010, Dudley was made general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers. As manager, he showed the same determination and force in recruiting players and coaches, as he did in chasing the puck and bashing opponents when a player. As of June 2011, Dudley has appeared on the executive staff for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A powerful presence both on and off the ice, Dudley has carved out his place in hockey history as both player and manager. A fierce competitor, his career accomplishments serve to galvanize his opponents and excite his players. A true legend of the ice, Dudley shows little sign of exhaustion, maintaining his spirited drive from the bench.
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