The number 66 is a magical one in the hockey world. Say that number to any diehard fan and he or she will immediately respond with one name: Mario Lemieux. The number 66 means something completely different to former Everett Silvertips defenseman Radko Gudas. The Tampa Bay Lightning used the 66th pick in the NHL Entry Draft to select Gudas and invite him to prospects camp, where he promptly scored in one of the scrimmage games. W.B. Philp, who runs the Tampa Bay blog Lightning Shout, has been attending prospects camp and wrote this about Gudas play during prospect camp so far: "Third round draft pick Radko Gudas stood out in the scrimmage by doing what he does best... hit people. While most of the play in the scrimmages is easygoing, Gudas delivered two or three bone-crushing hits. He is a top of the line pest and could be part of the Norfolk defense when the season opens. He needs work handling the puck, but could be a valuable addition to the Admirals."
Silvertips fans remember the bone-crushing hits that Radko delivered during his first and only season in Everett. For those who aren't familiar with his WHL career, here are the numbers: In 65 games, he scored 7 goals and had 30 assists for 37 points. He also spent a total of 151 minutes in the penalty box and had a +/- average of a whopping +45. He netted 2 assists in 3 playoff games, and was honored with the team's Ironman Award. The WHL named him to the 2nd Team of the Western Conference's All Star Team.
Radko didn't attend the Entry Draft in Los Angeles. He received the news that Tampa Bay had selected him in a phone call from his agent. "I m really glad to go," he said from his home in the Czech Republic. "I see a good chance to make the team. I see a good company now that Stevie Y (Yzerman) is the new General Manager. I think my chance is good and I m just glad to be there."
Radko has kept up his workout regime in the time he's been home, preparing for any kind of opportunity. "I m practicing in the Czech Ice League. They do a lot of kickboxing, a lot of weight room, running and skating."
He's also been enjoying a lot of good home cooking served up by his mother and grandmother, and spending time with friends in his hometown of Beroun, a city of just over 18,000 about 20 miles outside of Prague. He says his city might not be large, but has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to sports. There's inline skating, there s a pretty good sports center. A check of Beroun s city website shows officials think highly of their inline skating as well, listing it first among city attractions, followed by... the sports center. Radko's mother also owns a hotel nearby.
Radko spent one memorable season with the Silvertips. "The whole year was a good memory because we started the season good. We had the amazing home opening. Then, when I came back from the World Juniors (he represented Team Czech Republic in the 2009 and 2010 WJC's), the winning streak was 14 games we broke the record. There were a lot of good memories from that. Those fans are just amazing there."
When asked to compare fans in the US with those in the Czech Republic, he said there are many similarities, but some distinct differences as well. "Czech fans have drums at hockey games and they punch the drums all through the games and sing songs. In the US, it's more like the fans are cheering when someone scores or make a good move. Czech fans cheer for scores, too, but they sing all through the games."
Radko should have a very good chance to check out how AHL and NHL fans compare to WHL and Czech supporters. Right now, he s working to get a spot on the 40-player roster that could take part in a rookie camp September 11-15, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings in Traverse City, Michigan. GM Steve Yzerman is apparently still working out the details for that trip. The camp could take place just before the Lightning open training camp and kick off a pre-season road trip.
The busy prospects camp, scrimmages and the possibility of rookie camp and preseason training leaves Radko little time to indulge in one of his off-ice passions: ballroom dancing. "It s actually pretty fun," he laughs. "It s something different than hockey. Your moves have to be controlled. I fell into it and I really like it." When asked about a future sting on Dancing with the Stars, he laughs again and concedes, It s possible.
First, he's ready to show Lightning brass and NHL/AHL opponents a different set of moves; moves that sparked a rousing chorus of GUDY! whenever he hit the ice at Comcast Arena in Everett; moves that earned him 37 points and a team-high +45 rating. There will be plenty of time for dancing later.