Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Gudas follows dad's footsteps

Lightning rookie defenseman Radko Gudas says his game is like that of his father, who was a pro for 15 years in Europe.


Lightning rookie defenseman Radko Gudas says his game is like that of his father, who was a pro for 15 years in Europe.

TAMPA — Leo Gudas looks the part of a bruising defenseman, his broad shoulders and big hands having gone through many battles in a 15-year professional career in Europe.

At age 48, his shaggy hair is a blend of white and gray, and he jokes he plays only in "old-timers" leagues. But Gudas is gladly living vicariously through his son, Lightning rookie defenseman Radko Gudas, 22, taking photos from the Tampa Bay Times Forum stands before Saturday's game against the Hurricanes.

"It's like a dream," the elder Gudas said. "It was my moment and my time when I was young. But I didn't make it. But my son made it, so I'm happy."

Leo and his wife, Radomira, flew in from Prague, Czech Republic, to catch their son's first week in the NHL last week. Radko has played in just three games — his fourth will be tonight against the Flyers at the Times Forum — but he has already established himself with his physical, poised play. Coach Guy Boucher said he has been one of the Lightning's best defensemen.

Boucher compares Gudas, a 6-foot, 204-pound "major menace," to retired hard-hitting defenseman Darius Kasparaitis. "He's a head hunter," Boucher said. "He's one of those guys that hits you clean but extremely hard."

Radko says he has modeled his game on that of his father, who won a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics playing for Czechoslovakia. "He was the same player I am," Radko said. "Back in the day, it was a different style of hockey. But if it would be like right now, I'd say we'd be pretty close."

Leo said, smiling, "I think he's better."

Radko remembers traveling all over Europe during his father's playing career. It should come as no surprise, then, that he speaks five languages. Leo coached his son when Radko was a teenager and continues to teach with daily phone calls, catching his games online or on TV.

"He's just trying to help me as much as he can," Radko said. "He's got that experience. He played for 15 years pro, so he's always watching me."

The Lightning saw major upside in Radko when drafting him in the third round in 2010. But Boucher said he made a key adjustment in calming his game over two AHL seasons, learning to choose his moments better so his checks don't prove costly.

"You've got to read when to make the hit and when not," Radko said, "to help the team not get out of position, to not give the other team a chance."

Radko was impressive in training camp and believed he was ready for the NHL. "I was just waiting for my chance." That came last week, and since being recalled from AHL Syracuse, he has made a seemingly seamless transition.

In his first NHL game, Tuesday at Florida, Radko played 15:20 and received attention for a clean knee-to-knee hit that knocked Florida's Kris Versteeg out of the game (and later, it was learned, the season when Versteeg had to have surgery). But more than Gudas' brute force, Boucher has been pleased with how steady and smart he is with the puck, making simple plays.

"He's only played (three games), but it looks like he's played for a couple years," wing Teddy Purcell said.

Gudas said his fellow defensemen deserve a lot of credit for helping him, but he has earned enough trust from coaches to log 20 minutes of ice time in the win against the Hurricanes.

"He's been terrific," Boucher said. "We knew he was good. We knew he was probably ready. We just needed to put him on the ice and see how close he is. And he's not just close, he was probably our best defenseman (Thursday in a loss to the Islanders) and almost our best defenseman in his first game in the NHL. He's been doing it all right now."

And making his father proud.


Lightning vs. Flyers

When/where: 7:30; Tampa Bay Times Forum

TV/radio: NBC Sports Network; 970-AM

Key stats: The Flyers, in last place in the Atlantic Division, have lost four of their past six games. … The Lightning is 11-1 when leading after the first period. … RW Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers with 13 goals, 31 points. … The teams split their first two meetings.

Lightning's Gudas follows dad's footsteps 03/17/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 11:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …