Talk about tough love if you’re Charles Hudon, at least if it’s coming from his head coach for the foreseeable future.
“We all like Charles. We all have an affection for him. He’s a good guy,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “But he’s lucky. He has an opportunity to play hockey, he has his jersey, a pair of gloves. He’s in good health. He has beautiful children. I can’t feel bad for somebody like that when we come across people who are going through harder challenges.”
“I think we should stop feeling bad for Charles.”
Bouchard didn’t mince words about Hudon — a player he says he’s known since he was 15 years old — who participated in his first American Hockey League practice after the Canadiens put him on waivers at the beginning of the week. While some fans may want to see the young player get more National Hockey League minutes, Bouchard doesn’t think he needs any more sympathy than do Karl Alzner, Riley Barber, Phil Varone, or Dale Weise.
“[Hudon] came to the NHL, he had his jersey and an opportunity,” Bouchard continued. “It maybe didn’t work on a few levels. He’s not the first, you can look around at each of the 31 teams — 32 soon — there are Charles Hudons everywhere.
“We’re playing hockey and I have a young player who can still improve in many areas, and still has many years ahead of him. He’s still young. I don’t think I need to pity him. If he feels that way, then he needs to get off that mindset because other players here—there are others like him on this team and in the AHL, look at the players who went through waivers. I’m saying with a lot of love because I love Charles.
“I’m looking forward. What is he going to do starting from today to become a Charles Hudon 2.0?”
Coach Bouchard said that he worked with Hudon privately on Tuesday during a day off for the team. In Hudon’s first full practice at Place Bell on Wednesday, he spent quite a bit of time skating on the left wing alongside Jake Evans and new alternate captain Alex Belzile. It was obviously not the line mates nor venue the 25-year-old Alma native expected to be in this season.
“I spoke a lot with my agent, but it’s part of the game,” Hudon said. “There were a lot of guys who weren’t taken off waivers. I’m just going to focus on my game and focus on me. And I’ll try to have fun playing hockey, that’s the most important thing for me.”
Despite being sent down, Hudon realizes there are improvements to his game that need to be made, and he’s willing to work with Bouchard.
“I think we’re on the same wavelength,” Hudon said. “We both want to see me move up. I need to work on a few things, and I think I’ll do them with Joël. For me, it’s knowing a new way of playing hockey, to improve, to be good. I’m here to learn new things and when it comes time to go back up, to be able to do those new things.”
When Hudon steps onto the ice for the Rocket’s season opener Friday against Cleveland, he’ll be part of an exclusive group. He’ll be the third member of the Habs organization to have played for the Hamilton Bulldogs, St. John’s IceCaps, and Laval Rocket; the last three incarnations of the Habs’ minor-league affiliate.
Hudon’s last AHL stint came during the 2016-17 season with the IceCaps. He scored 27 goals and a total of 49 points in 56 games played, adding a goal and four points in the four playoff games he played later that spring. Hudon also suited up as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2012-13 and in 2014-15.