A Bruce of Fresh Air
Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 2:49 PM
There is little question that this 2011-12 season is one tinged in frustration. An incredibly difficult first half gave way to a great January and February, but the Ducks ultimately ran out of fuel and now stand on the brink of official elimination.
But while this campaign has been the proverbial rollercoaster ride, one thing that has been consistently refreshing is the presence of head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Since arriving in Anaheim in the beginning of December (after a November 30 hiring), Boudreau has been extremely candid, oftentimes funny, continually kind and generous with his time. Meanwhile, he's maintained a passion for winning that led was reflected in his success in his previous job in Washington, and shined through in Anaheim during most of these last few months.
Boudreau showed a little of that passion Sunday night, when officials overturned what would have been a tying goal in the third period vs. Boston, citing goaltender interference. "Every now and then," he told reporters today, "I lose it.
That fire is the Boudreau his players have seen at times over the years, and which revealed itself during a few salty tirades that aired on HBO's 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic last season. But away from the rink, Boudreau is a soft-spoken, witty 57-year-old father of four (three sons, one daughter). That's a side of him that revealed itself during an enjoyable hour-long Q&A with host Steve Carroll and fans on an episode of the Off the Ice show, taped last week at ESPN Zone and aired on AM 830 radio.
Carroll started off the session by apologizing to Boudreau for interrupting his dinner, to which Boudreau replied, "I don't think you have to worry about me starving."
After about a week, I didn't charge anybody for any drinks. I would just be giving drinks out and shots. I just wanted to get everybody drunk. He said, 'This isn't working out well' and he fired me ..."I need to stick to hockey. It's the only thing I know. - Boudreau on his stint as a bartenderHe again showed his grasp of Anaheim's rivalry with fellow California teams when talking about a big win in San Jose the night before. "We like visiting that city," he said. "We hate them, but we like visiting that city." Later he talked about about his time coaching in the Kings organization, which was met with boos from a few fans. "I know, I know," he said. with a smile. "They fired me, so the hell with them too."
Asked about jobs he's had outside of hockey (aside from a hockey school he's run for 30 years, which wife Crystal helps with), he spoke about the time he was 16 and he and some friends found a job planting trees.
"So, you're supposed to dig a little hole and plant a pine tree every five feet. By mid-morning, I had gone through two buckets and everyone else had gone through maybe a half bucket. The boss comes up and says, 'You're unbelievable. You're great,' and I said, "Yeah, I'm really scurrying through this. Give me another bucket." So he started to watch me a little more closely, and what I was doing was digging a hole and putting about 12 trees worth in there, just stuffing them in there. He saw that and fired me on the spot. That job didn't go well."
Another time he spent part of a summer working as a bartender in his buddy's pub. "After about a week, I didn't charge anybody for any drinks," he said with a laugh. "I would just be giving drinks out and shots. I just wanted to get everybody drunk. He said, 'This isn't working out well,' and he fired me too.
"I need to stick to hockey. It's the only thing I know, and the only thing I've been able to do well. We've got to keep this gig going for awhile."
On the difference between media here and back East. "In the East Coast, they're not looking for hockey knowledge or looking for the answers. They're looking for dirt. They want to make headlines where you've said something or you're criticizing somebody. This year I sat out Ovechkin for one shift against Anaheim, and it made headlines all across North America the next day because they made it bigger than it was. I wasn't thinking anything except that I wanted to win the game that night, and he wasn't playing that well."
To know what a player is going through and be able to put yourself in that's position, I think that's really important. If you can relate to what they feel, then you can understand what they're going through and you know how to treat them, whether to give them a kick in the butt or a pat on the back. You just need to know when to do it." - BoudreauOn Teemu Selanne: "I told some of the reporters, I think he's the greatest athlete on Earth. I mean that in all seriousness. Take all the other major sports in the world. Is there a 41-year-old guy in any sport who is at the top of his game still? Football, basketball, there isn't even a pitcher in baseball who is still at the top of his game. For his age, he is the most phenomenal athlete that I've met.
"As to what he's doing next year, I don't think he's going to make up his mind until July. Once he starts taking time off and starts missing it again, he's going to want to play. I don't know what his plan is though. He's got four kids that he follows around all over the place. Whatever it is he decides to do, he's earned the right to do it. The man has given his whole life to hockey."
On having played and coached at so many different levels of hockey: "It really gets you to understand people. That was the biggest thing. Even at the NHL level, to know what a player is going through and be able to put yourself in that's position, I think that's really important. If you can relate to what they feel, then you can understand what they're going through and you know how to treat them, whether to give them a kick in the butt or a pat on the back. You just need to know when to do it.
"The thing that comes to my mind is talking to a player whose wife is pregnant. He's not playing well, and you're asking him what's wrong, and he doesn't want to tell you. Then you talk to another player and he's like, "Listen, Matt hasn't slept in three weeks. He's sleeping in the rollaway because his wife can't sleep and the baby has colic and you're wondering why he has no energy in the game. It's sort of an insight and now you know what the deal is, instead of thinking that he's dogging it or not working."
And on his approach to the remaining games: "I expect to win all [of them]. That's what we thrive on. We've had two bad games since January 1 (6-2 at home vs. Dallas and 4-2 loss to LA on the road). Every other game we're either in the game or winning the game. I don't see why we can't strive to win them all. Until they elimate us, we're gonna go down fighting. Even in the last game of the season, if we're playing somebody and it doesn't mean anything to either team, we want them to think, Holy crap, are they gonna be good next year. That's the situation and that's what's gonna happen.
"I think we have the basis for a really good hockey team for a really long time. I'm excited about being part of Ducks hockey for awhile."
That's something we can all agree on.