Bruce Boudreau on the verge of 100 wins
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Part of my job seems to be listening to various radio appearances by various members of the D.C. sports establishment. Some of them are fine. Some of them are great. And some of them are terrible.
The Redskins' Executive Vice President of Uncomfortable Pauses, for example, just isn't that compelling on the radio. But maybe it would be cool if some other local luminaries got their own show. This occurred to me Monday night, when I was listening to Bruce Boudreau do nearly 30 continuous terrific minutes on HNIC radio. This was radio that you'd actually want to listen to, even if you weren't merely trying to satisfy your daily stenography requirements.
"Scale of 1-10, that's an 11," host Jeff Marek said at the end, and I wouldn't particularly disagree. Boudreau is funny, he's self-deprecating, he's smart, he's insightful, he's honest, his memory works better than mine, he makes repeated jokes about his weight, and he's not afraid to use the word "frig," repeatedly.
"I use the word frig a lot, because that's all [Roger Neilson] used," Boudreau joked. "That was his swear word. You know, aw frig! It's something I always say, and every time I say it, I think of him."
Boudreau was also posed the great question that hovers over his career: Why did it take so long for a likable, driven and successful coach to get a chance behind an NHL bench? It seems an especially notable question in this week, with Boudreau one win shy of 100. When he hits the century mark, he'll be the fastest Caps coach to get there, and the fourth-fastest coach in NHL history to hit that mark. And he did it after taking over a last-place team. So, why did it take so long to get a chance?
"I don't know," Boudreau said. "I mean, who knows why things happen, Jeff? I really don't. I think sometimes you get, I don't want to say pigeonholed, but this is what they think you are, and this is where they picture you, and they don't picture you behind an NHL bench until you give people a chance. Like, we've brought this kid up, Mathieu Perreault. He's a small little guy, and nobody thought he would do well. Well, here he is, like plus-6 and six points in six games. You give them a chance and they can do the job. I would obviously have liked to have gotten the call earlier, but I'm just grateful that I got the call at all. And every day, I just worry about doing well so I can stay up here."
(Note to all those who have complained about excessive transcripts of Redskins radio interviews; this is different!)
The appearance was to promote Boudreau's book, which includes an anecdote about Darryl Sittler once upbraiding the Caps' coach for his shoddy work ethic as a player. Marek asked Boudreau whether he'd rather have players police themselves, or whether he steps in on work ethic issues.
"I know I address it," he said. "I address it to the player all the time, if I see it. The guy's called up and he's having a little bit of success, and then all of a sudden if it's an 11 o'clock practice and they're on at one minute 'till 11 and they leave three minutes after the practice is over. And I address it solely for the reason that's in the book. Darryl came up to me, and it made so much sense. Here I am, things are going ok for me, but it's not making me any better, because I'm satisfied with the way things were. And I remember him coming down the hall and grabbing me, and he says, 'What are you doing leaving the ice so damn early?' And he says, 'I'm the best player on the team and I'm the first guy on the ice and I'm the last guy off the ice. And just because you're having a little success or you're doing well, you're getting off? You'll never get better that way.' And it really struck a chord and it hurt, but he was 100 percent right."
A few other moments.
On his Slapshot appearance: "Jeez, I was such I guess a glory hound back then. I mean, they said 'Listen, we're just going to shoot the front of the net, because we wanted to show how bad Charleston was, and we're gonna show the goalie having to make 50 saves or something.'...And all I did was circle the net. I just kept circling the net, circling the net, circling the net, because I knew that was the only place they were gonna take the shots. It's funny, in the movie you see me against the crossbar, and in front scoring a goal, and I would never have thought about it. I was joking around doing it. And 30 years later, people see it."
On why he did a book now: "You know what, I don't know. A writer from Hershey came up and said you want to do this thing in the middle of the summer? And I said, 'I've got nothing to do in the summer, sure, come on over.' I mean, I didn't think twice about it. I didn't proactively go out and say, 'Geez, what a story, I'd like to do a book about myself.' "
On how he'd coach Bruce Boudreau the player: "You better learn how to come in your own zone. And you know what, it's so funny, because as a player you always think 'I'm good defensively, I'm good this, I'm good that.' And then I've watched some old tapes of me in recent years, I'm sitting there going 'Oh my God, would he never play.' "
On tough guys: It's something I know I could never do. I mean, I was scared stiff I think....When you look at the opposing lineup and you're a tough guy, and you sit there and you're going 'Jeez, Colton Orr's playing on that team, I've got to fight that guy tonight.' Or Dave Semenko back in the '80s or whomever. And you look at a guy like Tiger Williams, who wasn't big, at 5-11, 180, and he knows he's got to go against these guys every night, and he might get eight punches in the head, but he's got to do it for his team. And they still go out and do it. How you can't think that they're not the best teammates in the world is beyond me. Those guys, I have all the respect for in the world, because it's just one thing I know I could never, ever do."
On what he's learned as a coach: "I'm not eating in the hotel. That's the first mistake I found. I'd go in, what a beautiful hotel, you're staying at the Ritz in Philadelphia, then you go to the room and it's $29.95 for a hamburger and $6 for a drink. I'm going, are you kidding me?"
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