ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Pat Hughes continued to sign autographs for years after his NHL career ended. Only the recipients didn't want them.
They didn't realize he had won the Stanley Cup three times, broken a record held by Wayne Gretzky and scored five goals in an NHL game. All they knew was he was an Ann Arbor police officer writing them speeding tickets.
"I was just another blue uniform out there," Hughes said.
Hughes started out wearing the bleu, blanc et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens. As a 23-year-old rookie in 1978-79, he played 41 regular-season and eight Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Canadiens, who won the Cup for the fourth straight season under coach Scotty Bowman. Hughes played with Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe, Rod Langway, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Steve Shutt.
After almost two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hughes went to the Edmonton Oilers for four-plus seasons. Though primarily a checking right wing, he scored at least 24 goals three seasons in a row and helped Edmonton win the Cup in 1985 and 1987. He played for coach Glen Sather with Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier.
"I was very, very fortunate to play for two great organizations," Hughes said. "Call it being in the right place at the right time on two different teams to win those three Cups."
Hughes scored two shorthanded goals 25 seconds apart in a 7-5 win against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 11, 1983, after Gretzky had set an NHL record with two in 27 seconds the season before. With Don Jackson serving a roughing penalty, Hughes scored on goaltender Mike Liut. The Blues replaced Liut with Rick Heinz and warmed him up before Hughes struck again, so Hughes said, 'What looks like 25 seconds on the scoresheet was really about five minutes.' But how many can say they broke a record held by Gretzky?
"Afterwards, Wayne says, 'I thought that one was going to last a long time,' " said Hughes, who held the record until Nov. 12, 1988, when Oilers center Esa Tikkanen scored two shorthanded goals in 12 seconds against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Gretzky was out of the lineup when the Oilers played the Calgary Flames on Feb. 3, 1984. Hughes suggested the Flames were lulled into a false sense of security. He had a hat trick in the first period, finished with five goals and nearly had more in a 10-5 win. He had 10 shots on goal and hit two goal posts. Only two other Oilers have scored five goals in a game: Gretzky, who did it four times, and Kurri.
"It was one of those freak nights, I guess," Hughes said. "You're Gretzky for a day. ... I'll call it all lucky, and I'll leave it at that, because I don't think anybody who played with me or against me would have ever expected anything like that to happen."
Hughes played two more seasons, bouncing from the Buffalo Sabres to the Blues to the Hartford Whalers, before retiring with 258 points (130 goals, 128 assists) in 573 games. Players didn't make the money they do now; he needed a new career. He had a couple of opportunities to stay in hockey, but he had a young family and wanted to put down roots.
Through contacts in Ann Arbor, where he had played at the University of Michigan, he got a job at Domino's Pizza headquarters and worked there for about eight years. But he had an interest in law enforcement, so he took a leave of absence, put himself through a local police academy and was hired by the Ann Arbor Police Department.
At 40, he was a rookie again, but in a different kind of uniform. He rose from patrol officer to detective to sergeant to patrol supervisor to detective supervisor. He retired in March after a 20-year career. He's now 61 and lives in nearby Dexter, Michigan.
Once, for a couple of shifts as a police officer, he partnered with Vada Murray, a former University of Michigan football player who died of lung cancer on April 6, 2011. Murray was younger, closer to his playing days and three inches taller at 6-foot-4. People knew the guy who had played for Bo Schembechler, but not the guy who had played for Bowman.
"Everywhere we'd go, everybody would recognize him," Hughes said, "and we'd have some laughs over that."