When Fred Hudson and his family moved from Connecticut to Huntsville, Alabama, in the 1960s, Hudson told his wife to get rid of his family’s ice skates and sleds. Thankfully, Hudson’s wife did not oblige.
Shortly after the Hudsons moved to Alabama, the family discovered the local hockey rink. In no time Hudson was helping start the city’s first-ever hockey association.
Decades later, Huntsville has becoming a thriving hockey community with a youth program that has more than 800 players and an NCAA Division I program. This all happened thanks in part to Hudson, who is the 2018 William Thayer Tutt Award winner.
Presented each year at USA Hockey’s Annual Congress, the Thayer Tutt Award goes to a volunteer, who during many years of service, has displayed selfless dedication to the enhancement of ice hockey at the grassroots level in the United States. The award is named after the longtime USA Hockey president who passed away in 1989 but was essential to the growth of the organization.
Before moving to the Yellowhammer State, Hudson grew up playing outside in Connecticut.
“Because I grew up in the Depression, our gloves and shinpads were handmade,” Hudson said. “I was also out on the pond in someone else’s skates.”
Hudson continued to play into his teenage years, but ultimately served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After returning home, Hudson bounced around and ended up getting married and living in Connecticut. At the time, he hadn’t done much with hockey.
“All these things were going on in my life while my skates were rusting in the closet,” Hudson said jokingly.
But then it changed in 1962. Hudson had moved his family to Huntsville while working at IBM. Shortly after moving, Hudson noticed an ice rink. Eventually, he dragged some of his children to the rink to skate on a rainy Sunday.
While he was at the rink, Hudson was approached and asked to help start up a new hockey team that would play at the rink. He said yes and was suddenly in charge of organizing the 60 kids that were signed up for the league.
“The first practice was a horror story,” Hudson said. “I blew the whistle and half of them fell down.”
However, the players slowly improved and stuck with the program. It continued to grow and ultimately the Huntsville Amateur Hockey Association was formed.
After spending eight years growing the sport, Hudson was transferred to New Jersey in 1970. After a three-year hiatus, Hudson and his family would end up back in Huntsville.
“Our goal then was to develop the southern youth hockey league,” Hudson said. “We were getting better and better at bringing a kid from knowing zero to at least being able to bat the puck around.”
Over the next few decades, the growth of hockey in Huntsville and the region as a whole continued to grow. In the late 1970s, the University of Alabama-Huntsville formed an ice hockey program. The man who formed the team was Joe Ritch. Oddly enough, he was one of the 60 kids that took the ice with Hudson in 1962.
While the collegiate team continued to grow, so did the hockey culture in Huntsville and in the south. More youth programs were beginning to pop up.
“When Delta Airlines moved its hub from Boston to Atlanta, there was a giant influx,” Hudson said. “Gradually, rinks got built. Now, we just have a big web of rinks.”
Fifty-six years after moving to Huntsville, Hudson has been able to see the transformation of the town into one that has a passion for hockey. Meanwhile, Hudson has continued to work on his own game. At 89 years old, Hudson continues to play adult league hockey in his free time. After the sport was pretty much out of his life, Hudson has turned hockey into something to which he’s devoted his life.
“I was totally stunned when they called me and told me I had won the award,” Hudson said. “It was great we were able to put that program together and see what it is today.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): Annual Awards