Young Leaf fans may only know Rick Dudley because of his time in NHL management circles (Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta, etc.) But long before he earned his stripes as a respected “management” type, the guy was quite a hockey player.
Personally, I remember Dudley pretty much exclusively as a Sabre in the mid-‘70s. I’ll look it up in a second, just to see how good or bad my memory is. But here’s what I remember about Dudley: he was fast, and as importantly, he was pretty tough. He could fly into the corners and take the man. He had some offensive ability, too.
I don’t know where he played his junior or college hockey, or even if he was drafted. But I remember that he was pretty darn good as a scoring grinder-type with the Sabres for a couple of seasons.
Maybe I’m off here (Sabre fans of that era can correct me) but I seem to recall he was part of the really good Sabre team that made it to the finals in 1975 before losing in a tough 6-game series against the Flyers.
The Sabres at the time had the “French Connection” line of Gilbert Perreault with Rene Robert and Richard Martin. They also had a very strong second unit with Don Luce flanked by speedy little Danny Gare and two-way winger Craig Ramsey. (Ramsey and Luce were also outstanding penalty killers.)
And the third line was….well, I believe Dudley patrolled one of the wings with ex-Leaf forward Brian “Spinner” Spencer on the other side. Maybe someone could refresh my memory. Was Peter MacNabb their center?
Spencer- click to read about him- was one of my very favorite early ‘70s Leafs. A knee injury made him “expendable”, though I remember being bitterly disappointed that they let him go in the expansion draft to the New York Islanders, who later flipped him to the Sabres.)
If I’m not mistaken, Dudley ended up in the WHA (Cincinnati??) for a time, and came back to the NHL with the Sabres. (I just looked it up. It was indeed the old WHA Stingers and he did come back to the Sabres, though I don’t remember him being as impactful his second time around. Nor did I remember him finishing his career with the Winnipeg Jets in the early ‘80s.)
It’s funny how there are just certain guys that you remember. But Dudley is one of them. He was a scrappy guy. In his prime, he would have been an awfully good Maple Leaf when the Leafs were already a decent team in the mid and later '70s.
Heck, they could use someone just like him right now.