March 14, 2013

Hardy Astrom

Meet Hardy Astrom - the man who made Don Cherry a millionaire.

"Grapes" was hired as the new coach of the Colorado Rockies and Hardy, a Swede, was the team's number one goalie. Goaltending was always the Achilles heel of the Rockies and kept Cherry from turning the team around. As a result Cherry was soon fired and he turned to the world of broadcasting where he became a huge hit. He managed to parlay his popularity into endorsement contracts and business opportunities to become a very rich man.

"I never thought of myself as the ultimate connoisseur of goaltenders but one look at the guys we had between the pipes convinced me that our goalie problems weren't big, they were colossal. Astrom, if he was at his best, would be lucky to make it in the American league, and he was our number one goalie!" recalled Cherry in his autobiography.

"Hardy was our main man, as nice a guy as you would ever hope to meet" said Cherry diplomatically. But.....
"Astrom was killing us. Astrom was driving the guys nuts. Players would come up to me, almost in tears, saying that in all the years they played hockey, they had never played on a team with a goalie like him.

"Instead of improving, (Astrom) was getting worse. By now the opposition was scoring on shots from center
ice. I couldn't take it anymore. One night, between periods of another Hardy Horror Show, I walked into (GM Ray) Miron's office and got down on my knees begging him to make a trade for a goalie. I felt sorry for the players because they were working their asses off. They'd come up with a goal and then, bing, bing, Hardy would let two easy ones go by and we would be finished.

"Once, during a practice, Bobby Schmautz tested Astrom with 4 shots from the blue line. Each one of them went right along the ice and beat Astrom. I doubt that my wife, Rose, would have missed more than two of them!"

Okay, so Cherry blames Astrom for his lack of success in Colorado. That kind of makes you wonder about how bad the other goalies were!

Hardy was originally signed out of Sweden by the New York Rangers in 1977-78. After starring with his hometown squad in Skelleftea, Astrom caught attention from NHL scouts in Canada Cup tournament and World Championships.

Astrom spent his first season in North America, Astrom lit up the American league. In just 27 games he led the league with 5 shutouts and a small 2.63 GAA. He went 17-5-3. He also appeared in 4 games with the Rangers, going 2-2-0 with a 3.50 GAA.

A homesick Astrom returned to Skelleftea in 1978-79 but returned to North America as a member of Cherry's Rockies after a summertime trade which saw the Rangers acquire Bill Lochead.

You know what Cherry thought of Astrom's play. Let's take a look at the stats to see if they back up Grapes' always exaggerated thoughts. Hardy played in 49 games in 1979-80, going 9-27-6 with a 3.75 GAA. In 1980-81 Hardy went 6-15-6 in 30 games, with a 3.76 GAA.

Hmmm......maybe Grapes has a point. Although the Rockies weren't the best team in the league, they didn't get quality goaltending from Astrom. But at least he lasted longer in Denver than Cherry.

Hardy was demoted to the CHL in 1981-82 where he struggled through a poor season with the Oklahoma Stars. He returned to Sweden for 4 years starting in the 1982-83.

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