LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jiri Hudler won the Lady Byng Trophy and lost his shoes in Vegas.
The Calgary Flames forward was shoeless when he took the stage to accept the trophy honoring the NHL’s most sportsmanlike player Wednesday night at the NHL Awards show.
Hudler just couldn’t stand the pinch of his new shoes any longer, and he took them off shortly before he went on stage. His funny acceptance speech and his orange-and-blue socks were among the hits of the NHL’s postseason party.
“I couldn’t do it,” Hudler said. “I was sitting there for an hour and a half. I thought Lady Byng was going to be the first trophy, but it’s not. Obviously it is the most important one.”
Hudler received 52 first-place votes to beat Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar in the voting. Datsyuk, the four-time Lady Byng winner, and Hudler were teammates with the Red Wings until Hudler left as a free agent in 2012.
“Pav is a beautiful person, a beautiful human being and my favorite player I ever played with or played against,” Hudler said. “When I heard I was nominated for this award against him and Kopitar … I’ll take it any day.”
Hudler was the NHL’s eighth-leading scorer, racking up 76 points while Calgary qualified for its first postseason trip since 2009. He received just 14 penalty minutes all season, the fewest among the league’s top 20 scorers.
Hudler’s shoes weren’t the only new thing he was sporting: He traveled to Vegas with nothing to wear to the formal awards show.
“I didn’t bring a suit home (after the season),” Hudler said. “And then I find out I am nominated, and I didn’t want to leave my daughter at home for too long, so I flew in two days ago, and I am flying out (Thursday). So I didn’t have a suit, but my friends set it up so I look the sharpest.”
Hudler’s coach, Bob Hartley, won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. Calgary had more award finalists than any team, with Johnny Gaudreau finishing third in the Calder Trophy balloting.
With the Lady Byng in hand, the 31-year-old Hudler acknowledged that he relishes his role as a leader with the up-and-coming Flames, who reached their first postseason since 2009 and advanced to the second round before losing to the Anaheim Ducks.
“I have been (a) leader since I was young,” Hudler said. “I started playing professional hockey when I was 16 in Czech, in elite league. It’s tough to be a leader in Detroit, right? I started when Steve Yzerman was there, Chris Chelios, (Nicklas) Lidstrom. You are not going to stand out in that group. That is why I signed in Calgary. I want to be Calgary’s Datsyuk, or Calgary’s (Henrik) Zetterberg. I want to be around a young group like we have and show them the ropes.”