Charles Hudon couldn’t ask for better for his debut with his new team, the Lausanne HC. A pass on a power-play goal, the insurance goal in an empty net, a beautiful 3-0 victory against Zug, a powerhouse of the Swiss championship which had won its first four games of the season.
We note in passing that he now wears the number 55, rather than the 54 he wore with the Canadian. Why is that ?
“I wore 55 in Baie-Comeau,” he recalled in an interview with The Press, Saturday. I wore the 10 pretty much my whole career before that, but the number is removed here. Five plus five is 10. ”
And the 54, did it have a meaning? “No, it’s just the number the Canadiens gave me. They chose for me, like during quite a lot of my career. ”
Sticks in the wheels
Charles Hudon made a dream come true when he put on the Canadiens jersey for 125 season games and two more in the playoffs. But listening to his words, we understand that the relationship with the organization has deteriorated in recent years, so that a change of air was necessary.
This change of air, he could have had it at the end of the season, with the expiration of his contract. The Canadian tried to exchange it, but the efforts were unsuccessful. There remained the option of not submitting a qualifying offer to him, in order to allow him to become a free agent without compensation. Free like air. However, the CH would have lost it for nothing, a bit like losing a player on waivers.
The Habs therefore submitted him a qualifying offer, which he did not accept. Knowing full well that the organization did not have a plan for him in the NHL, knowing the uncertainty around where the next season will be in the American League, Hudon opted for Switzerland, where the season started from the 1er October.
It was another of those organizational choices that he feels were forced on him. Kind of like the story he told on the podcast The blue pocket last month: the Canadian asked him to put on 15 lbs in order to play 200 lbs, even though the main stakeholder was not sold on the idea.
“Europe was my second option,” recalls the Almatois. With everything the Canadian put me through, I knew they were going to qualify me. I did not receive much service from them during those years. So I decided to think about myself, my children and my career.
“COVID will be a factor for many players. The NHL might start over, but I don’t know about the American League, and if it doesn’t pick up, the players won’t be paid. With children and a house, an income has to come in. Before I left I was afraid to regret, but since I arrived here I have no regrets. ”
The relationship between Hudon and CH cooled in 2018-2019, when he was left out 50 times. Claude Julien had notably cut him off from training in the last 22 games, including in the 82e and last duel of the season, when the Habs were eliminated from the playoff race. This episode was followed by an end of season interview with Julien and Marc Bergevin at the end of which he presented himself visibly shaken in front of the media.
Ceded to Laval for the start of last season, Hudon however worked closely with Joël Bouchard and his assistant Alex Burrows, which allowed him to experience a campaign of 27 goals in 46 games in the American League. “They helped me a lot. I had a big year with them. I expected to spend the whole year with them so I got my things done. I’m very grateful. “
Problem is, that scoring touch, which he consistently showed in the American League, didn’t follow him in the NHL. Was its low use in Montreal the cause or the consequence? The answer differs depending on who you are asking the question.
Hudon finally got an unexpected last chance with CH during the final series. Kirk Muller, interim head coach following Julien’s heart failure, used it for the last two games of the series against the Flyers, but in a very limited role.
“I had the chance to play thanks to Kirk Muller,” said Hudon. But what happened to Claude was serious, you never think it can happen. Glad to know he’s doing great now! ”
Hudon, however, retains a certain bitterness from his last years in the organization.
“Everyone will say that I played, that I had my chance. But having a real chance is when you feel appreciated, when you receive communication. This is what I have here. ”
The past week has been chaotic for Hudon.
Things tumbled at breakneck speed until he hopped on the plane last Saturday, October 10, early evening, long before the contract was officially signed. He was to arrive in Switzerland before October 12, the date from which travelers from Canada had to undergo a 10-day quarantine.
“I had 12 hours to arrive in Lausanne. We had to pack the bags, prepare the passports, prepare the children. It was a very busy day, but we got there on time. ”
For now, he is staying at the hotel with his wife and their two daughters, while they wait to find a suitable apartment for a family of four. He is very happy to continue his career in an environment where the French language will mitigate cultural shock. Because another option would have been the Avangard of Omsk, in the KHL, team led by Bob Hartley.
“We talked, Bob and me. He really wanted to have me. But for children Switzerland was better, says Hudon. I would have liked to play for Bob, I know him a little, but I had to make a decision for my family. ”
Decision he does not regret. Upon his arrival on Swiss soil, he was treated to a warm welcome, in particular from Petr Svoboda (yes, yes, LE Petr Svoboda), director of hockey operations at Lausanne HC.
“It’s a good group of players. I already knew Mark Barberio, so he helped me a lot. I am well at the hotel, I am treated very well. Petr Svoboda welcomed me as someone who wants me in the organization. I couldn’t ask for more. ”