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Welcome to The Real DFG's Pittsburgh Penguin Autograph Project. My goal is to eventually try and get at least one autograph of every player to lace up the skates in an NHL game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It could have been for one game or 700 games, I will add them. Occasionally I may post cards of former players in their new team uniforms. While the goal is to get autos in Pens uni's, it isn't always possible. Since the team has been in existence since 1967, the list is pretty large. Last I checked, it was somewhere in the range of 624 different players. Currently, I sit at about 100 autographs (with some duplication). Enjoy the posts.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jan Hrdina

I'm not going to say Hrdina is another one of the hand-picked Jagr Czech busts because he isn't.  Hrdina had a fairly decent career in Pittsburgh for only playing just under five years and was a highlight during a dark time.

He was drafted in the 5th round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by the Pens and quickly proved why he deserved to be in the "bigs" playing great in the WHL.  He finally was able to get a roster spot after camp in 1998-99 and never looked back.  He put up 227 points in 366 games which is not "bust-worthy" in my opinion.

But the knock on Hrdina was that he was a pass first kind of guy for much of his time in Pittsburgh.  It was almost like he was always afraid of Jagr's shadow.  He knew the team belonged to Jaromir and he wanted no part of stealing the spotlight, even though he clearly showed he had those abilities.  Instead, he kept quiet in the locker room, didn't really speak to the media, and played a subdued, yet intelligent game on the ice.

I think that style of play and the fact that fans still wanted more from him is what lead to the endless trade rumors.  I can't tell you how many times "Hrdina for Zubrus" was in the op-ed sports columns, countless fact-less websites, or mentioned on the local news.  I still use that every time other trade rumors start about other players.  It just fits.  But those rumors subsided a bit when he had his best season playing with Kovalev and Morozov.  He ended the season as the teams 2nd leading scorer, putting up 24 goals and 33 assists for a total of 57 points.

But in typical Pittsburgh fashion, or I should say, typical of the broke Penguins fashion, they shipped him to the Coyotes in 2003 for Guilliame Lefebvre, Ramzi Abid, and Dan Focht (who? exactly!).  Those guys were worthless, not worthy of the talent Hrdina had or could have had by comparison (not as bad as the "Jagr 3" but pretty awful nonetheless).

This card comes from the 2002-03 Be A Player Signature Series and is the Gold Parallel version of the card.  The best part is you can clearly see his candy-cane stick in his hands.  Jan would always wrap his stick with tape in that diagonal pattern, making it look like a candy cane.  I never saw anyone else do this before and will likely never see it again.  A little strange for such a quiet guy.

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