December 4, 2009

Boudreau is voice of experience

by Stan Fischler

Bruce Boudreau (photo: Getty)

After a long and storied career in the AHL, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has found his place in the NHL.

In his memoirs, “Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer,” Boudreau shares his experiences of over 30 years in hockey. Our correspondent, Linda Knox, gives some insight into the straight-shooting coach’s new book:


It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 2007 Jack Adams Award winner, Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau. The Capitals coach, who has dedicated his life to hockey, has paid his dues and traveled miles upon miles on minor league buses to deserve the luxury of an NHL charter plane.

Boudreau collaborated with Patriot-News columnist and reporter Tim Leone to write “Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer.” This is more than a hockey narrative. It’s a story of tough lessons learned, missed opportunities, and life-altering moments of a modest man with big dreams.

Boudreau speaks matter-of-factly when discussing his former teams while bouncing around the minor-league circuit. He initially played in the Toronto Maple Leafs system, making stops in Dallas, New Brunswick, and St. Catharine’s, where he awaited his call to the big stage.

Despite having a prolific AHL playing career, with his name tied to numerous offensive records, he never received a permanent roster position. However he did make brief appearances with the Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.

During his lengthy career, Bruce had such coaches as Gene Ubriaco (Baltimore – AHL), Roger Neilson (Dallas – CHL) and Garry Unger (Springfield – AHL) among many others. He discusses the impact each of them made on him as a player, both positively and negatively, which ultimately helped shape his successful coaching techniques and tactics that he uses today.

Nicknamed “Gabby” by his Toronto Marlies trainer, Pat Riley, for his inability to keep quiet, Boudreau hits on topics including his appearance in the 1976 cult classic “Slap Shot,” his near fatal plane ride on Sept. 11, 2001, and how he feels privileged to coach arguably the best hockey player in the world, Alex Ovechkin.

He speaks frankly about how events evolved and affected him both professionally and personally. Also included in the middle of the hardcover binding are 16 pictures which give better insight of the intensity, passion, and joy he has for the game, family and fans.

“Confessions of a Hockey Lifer” shows the transformation of a talented hockey player who never met his potential into a skilled NHL coach who never lost his hunger for victory or passion for the game.

As Don Cherry, who wrote a forward for this book, said: “I know you’ll enjoy it.”

Observations

Donald Fehr’s hiring as “consultant” to the NHL Players’ Association is a prescription for disaster. And that calamity holds for both the union and – in the long run – the league itself.

Don’t let anyone kid you; Fehr is a Bob Goodenow–type who could very well lead to another – even more bloody – war between the league and its fat cats.

Gossip

* Asked to pick one player he’d like on his team, between Sid Crosby and Ovechkin, Mike Milbury (Walpole, Mass.) uncharacteristically waffled. “Maybe I’ll take (Evgeni) Malkin,” Milbury replies. “But if you put my feet to the fire I’ll tell you that I’d rather watch Ovechkin because there’s more sizzle to his game. But a hockey purist would have to take Sidney because he’s a more complete player.”

* Devils GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.) has some serious thinking to do this week as injured veterans Jay Pandolfo, Rob Niedermayer and Johnny Oduya prepare to return. His overachieving team wins with Lowell call-ups but somebody will have to go to make room for the returning regulars.

* The latest buzzword among hockey people is “identity.” It’s also a good alibi for players on under .500 teams. Asked to explain Anaheim’s inferior play, the erudite George Parros says, “The Ducks are trying to find an identity.”

Somebody should tell him that the Ducks “identity” is in Philadelphia and his name is Chris Pronger.

By the way, when the mustachioed Parros isn’t beating up a foe, he’s pushing his own clothing line, “Stache Gear.” Georgie Boy is quick to diss Sean (Fashion Plate) Avery’s threads. “Any guy who wears a suit jacket with shorts is going beyond the limit (of good taste),” says the man with the stache.

* December is upon us and still none of the 30 bench bosses have been fired yet.
The NHL Network’s Jay Feaster explains it this way: “General managers are hoping for a big second half – the Leafs and others. As for Brian Burke (Providence, R.I.), he’s not the kind of guy to throw his coach (Ron Wilson) under the bus.”

* How does Rogie Vachon feel about not being in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Answers Rogie: “If you compare my numbers with the guys who were inducted at that time, there’s no question that I should’ve been there. But what are you going to do?”

Stan Fischler can be reached at fischlersp@gmail.com.