By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Sunday, April 17, 2016 4:22:09 MDT PM
Originally from Sexsmith, Jason Duda enjoyed a 15-year CHL career mostly with the Wichita Thunder. Last week, Duda was named as an inductee into the 2016 Wichita Sports Hall of Fame. Duda is the Thunder's all-time leader in goals (337), assists (533), points (870), games played (730), hat tricks (11), shootout goals (21-68), and overtime goals (7). He is also second in power play goals (101), shorthanded goals (22) and game-winning goals (42).
While growing up in Sexsmith and playing minor hockey in Grande Prairie, Jason Duda admits it was difficult to envision exactly where his hockey career would take him.
Flash forward to 2016 and Duda, now 40, finds himself as one of 10 inductees on their way into the 2016 Wichita (Kansas) Sports Hall of Fame next month.
The news of the induction, which was announced last week, reflects just how Duda's hockey career went.
'It's good. It was nice. It's a nice honour when you get voted in to something like that by your peers and I've been here for 20 years and I was involved in hockey for 19 of those, so it was nice to receive the honour... no question about that," said Duda, who lives in Wichita along with his wife Deah and two children.
"I tell people that if you would have asked me 20 years ago that I was going to two decades in Wichita, Kansas, I would have slapped out upside the head. When it comes to sports, you never know where it's going to lead you and you go where you have a chance to play and that's what happened with myself."
Growing up, Duda became property of the Grande Prairie Storm in its early stages of its AJHL existence.
After playing for the Kinistino Junior B Tigers in Saskatchewan, WHL's Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers in the early 1990's, Duda's Storm rights were dealt to the Melfort Mustangs of the SJHL in a blockbuster, multi-player deal.
In the 1995-1996 season, Duda registered 60 goals and 81 assists for 141 points with the Mustangs, who ended up losing 2-0 to the Vernon Vipers in the Centennial Cup final.
To this day, Duda still holds the Mustangs team record for points, goals, assists and power play goals (27) in a season.
That success opened the door for Duda to play for the Central Hockey League's Oklahoma City Blazers in 1996-1997. After 15 games, he was dealt to the Wichita Thunder in December 1996 in exchange for Dave Shute.
"(Oklahoma) were by far the best team in the league. They had 40 more points than us and we played them in the first round. We knocked them out in game four in a best-of-five in overtime and I scored the OT winner. That's always a memory that's stuck out to me for years, (especially) for a team that got rid of you and you were able to do that. That was good," recalled Duda.
"I'll never forget the first game after I got traded to Wichita and the team had only been here for a few years and there was a delayed penalty on us and we got the puck and we shot it in the net and 5,000 people just roared because they thought the goal counted," continued Duda, with a chuckle, adding it was a "culture shock" from growing up in a small northern Alberta community to a communnity over more than 500,000.
"I remember I got down here and we went to play in San Antonio and it was a Saturday morning and I opened the paper and I looked at it and I was looking for hockey and other stuff and the first six pages was all high school football."
From 1996-2009, Duda played for the Thunder. In 2009, he suffered a back injury forced him to retire. Duda then worked as an assistant coach with the Thunder before being let go in October 2015. He's also worked in the Wichita media on sports talk TV and radio shows.
Duda is the Thunder's all-time leader in goals (337), assists (533), points (870), games played (730), hat tricks (11), shootout goals (21-68), and overtime goals (7). He is also second in power play goals (101), shorthanded goals (22) and game-winning goals (42).
He also holds several league records: second in games played (745), third in goals (339), third in assists (539), and third in points (878).
His best season came in 2004-2005 when he compiled 30 goals and 66 assists for 96 points, which earned him the Joe Burton Award as the CHL scoring champion.
In Oct. 2010, the Thunder retired his No. 11 jersey. He's only one of four Thunder players in team history to have their jersey retired.
"It was nice to see (the jersey retirement). My wife didn't tell me and there was about 100-150 of our family and friends that ended up showing up and I had my old billets from Saskatoon when I played there in the WHL, they came down, and two of my really good buddies - Tim Krause and Todd Zahorodniuk - popped in the night before...," said Duda.
"My dad was down here and my uncle was down here and having everyone down here is something I'll never forget and the support that I've had throughout the years from family and friends have been absolutely fantastic."
Duda's induction is May 7.