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Playing Through Traffic
MONTREAL | May 12th, 2014
Playing Through Traffic
No player will ever forget his first NHL game. ForCraig Ludwig, the journey to reach that milestone was as memorable as the game itself.

The idea of hitting the ice alongside hockey legends like Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey would be intimidating enough for any young Habs player. But as Ludwig headed to the rink to make his Canadiens debut in September 1982, he had a few other things to worry about first.

“I was taking part in my first NHL training camp with the Canadiens and I was already really nervous,” recalled Ludwig. “Then, while I was driving to the Forum for my first-ever preseason game, I got in a car accident around the corner from the rink.

“The other guy ran a red light and T-boned me and I was thrown clear through the passenger side window,” he described. “Next thing I know, I’m lying right in the middle of Atwater street.”

Ambulances arrived on the scene to find the 21-year-old Habs defenseman picking pieces of glass out of his freshly-pressed suit. A shot-blocking specialist throughout his career, Ludwig wasn’t about to let a few bumps and bruises keep him from his teammates. The paramedics urged Ludwig to come with them to the hospital for more testing, but the rookie blue-liner convinced them to drop him off down the block for an important detour first.

“I finally made it to the Forum and the first person I ran into was Gaetan Lefebvre,” explained Ludwig, who went on to play eight seasons in Montreal. “He looked at me standing there, covered in blood, and was just like, ‘What the heck happened to you?’ After explaining the situation to him, he hustled me into the dressing room to get ready.”

Arriving at his stall at 6:00 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. game, Ludwig hurried to suit up before anyone noticed his tardiness. Unfortunately for the rookie defenseman, someone else was strolling through the hallway at the exact same time.

Bob Berry was the coach at the time and he saw me come rushing in. He just looked down at his watch then back up at me,” recalled Ludwig with a chuckle. “I thought I was going to be benched, for sure. Bob just laughed and said, ‘Better hurry up, kid – warmup is about to start.’ That was definitely an interesting welcome to the NHL!”