The Vancouver Canucks finally, mercifully relieved head coach Bruce Boudreau of his coaching duties this past weekend.
It's been rumored for weeks now that Boudreau was on his way out of town, but that the Canucks were still finalizing details of a contract for new head coach Rick Tocchet. And then, before the ink was even dry on Tocchet's contract, he was unveiled to Vancouver media as the team's newest head coach and that he's bringing former NHL defenseman Adam Foote along with him as an assistant coach. Sergei Gonchar was also named to the team's coaching staff as a defensive specialist.
The Canucks' front office staff of Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin are hoping that a change of voice and a change of direction will help this seemingly directionless team. Tocchet has a reputation as a fiery coach, so it'll be interesting to see how the team reacts following a year under Boudreau.
As for Boudreau, it's unclear what's next for him. The hockey lifer shared his full thoughts with Minnesota Wild insider and friend Michhael Russo earlier today for The Athletic. In a wide ranging exclusive interview Boudreau chats about his time with the Canucks, his final moments with the Canucks players and what's next for him and his wife Crystal Boudreau.
From Boudreau, via Russo's column for The Athletic:
“I enjoyed my time in Vancouver and am sad to see it end, but there’s no use rehashing everything,” Boudreau said. “I’ll just say it’s been difficult. It was difficult not knowing and thinking you’re gonna get let go and nobody telling you anything. Nobody really had to tell me, but with just the speculation and the noise outside and the reporters asking every day and reading articles about being a lame duck coach and that it was just a matter of time, those were the things that were difficult.
“But, I mean, no one had to come right out and say, ‘You’re gonna lose your job,’ or that this was the time you’re going to lose it. I think I’m smart enough to look around me and see what was going on. And so that was the hard part.”
“The thing that kept driving me was that you’ve got to go to work, do your job, do it the same way and with the same passion every day,” Boudreau said. “And since I’ve always been a dreamer and a believer, I believed that, ‘OK, if we could just sneak it out, something good can happen.’ And so even though in the back of my mind you knew that something was imminent, you never wanted to believe it fully. So you just worked harder and the whole coaching staff worked so hard in trying to maybe figure out that if we could maybe have won four or five in a row or something like that, then maybe the noise would slow down a little bit. But it never happened.”
Asked about the stress on his face during the third, Boudreau said, “I was pretty sure that it was my last period. Nobody had said anything, but in my heart, I was pretty sure. And then I started thinking that ‘OK, if it’s my last period, is this my last time I’m going to be behind the bench of somewhere that I just love being? Is this the last time I’m going to be in front of 18,000 people trying to win with a group?
“It was sort of catching up to me a little bit. This was my 48th year of professional hockey. Sometimes you start to reflect on what are you doing? What’s gonna happen next? And then you’ve still got to stay in the moment because we were only down 3-2. And we were really playing hard in the third period. And I thought we were going to tie it up for sure. So to keep those thoughts away from the other thoughts was a little bit difficult sometimes. Yeah, it was a hard game to coach.”
“Very rarely do coaches in any sport get a chance to say goodbye to their players,” Boudreau said. “I mean, usually you get fired, it’s on a day off or it’s after the game and the players have gone home by then. So for me to be able to walk in there and thank them for what they did for me and the effort they gave was quite an experience to have. And then to see the emotion, I’ve never seen anything like it. All of us, almost all the players and me, were crying in the room. It was crazy. Like, I mean, you’d have to see it to believe it because it’s hard to believe it just saying it.”
One high-profile player came into Boudreau’s office and was crying uncontrollably and audibly as he hugged him in front of assistants. On Sunday, Boudreau got a slew of texts from his players, including “the most beautiful text” from sometimes-maligned J.T. Miller.
“I love this. This is what gives you meaning when you get a chance to go to work every day and coach in the National Hockey League. The biggest thing probably is I thought I could communicate well enough with the young player still. I’ve always gotten along well with the players. But the communication, I thought, was really good. With all that being said, if it was ever offered to me again, I would jump at the chance. I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years, and I would do it forever.”
“The one thing about coaching in Canada, more than any other place — and this includes Minnesota, as much as I love Minnesota and the people there who watch the game and know the game there, it is like a religion up here,” Boudreau said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. And I loved it. I loved the fact that everybody knew what you were doing. You either fear it or you embrace it. And I embraced it.
“I just loved talking on the street. You go to a restaurant, anything, and people would come up to you and talk hockey. And when you lost, they were displeased and maybe throw the jersey on the ice. But when you won, they were the biggest fans going. If this is the last time, what a great experience.
“All coaches should get the opportunity to visit the threshold of being under the microscope of coaching in Canada.”
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