Coach Boudreau is writing a weekly column for the Caps website which will be published on Mondays. In case you missed the first three, see below.
**Thank goodness Coach was not on United flight 175 on 9/11/2001!
Editor's note: Coach Boudreau will author a weekly column for WashingtonCaps.com that will appear every Monday. This is his first column.
Monday, 09.07.2009 / 9:48 AM / Features
Today is the day we have all been waiting for. I love the summer, but today is the day when hockey returns, the day when we get the skates back on and get on the ice. It is where we are supposed to be. We circle this date on the calendar and look forward to it all summer because it is when we are able to do what we love again, and that is coach hockey.
I was so excited yesterday that I got to the rink at 7:30 a.m. That might have been a little too early because I was in my office looking for something to do. So I watched some film and waited for the day to really begin when the rookies showed up at 10 a.m. I was here at 6:30 a.m. today and am ready to get on the ice.
This is a special time of year because for a lot of guys this week, this is their first professional training camp. My first pro camp was in 1975 and was a little bit different than what camps are like today. I was the first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA. The league was only a few years old then and was trying to rival the NHL. I had always been one of the better players on every team I played on and everything had been so easy for me up to that point. I had broken every scoring record, and thought I would do well in camp.
Boy was I surprised. I was 21 and went to my first camp 10-15 pounds overweight and at that age the weight kind of begins to stick with you. I went to camp and there were some tremendous veterans there, like Dave Keon and John McKenzie. These guys were icons in the ’60s and ’70s, and I went in there thinking I was all that, but really I was all nothing. The problem with me is that I had no idea how to work to become a professional hockey player. I was picked on unmercifully because I was the first-round pick, who was a little overweight and who did not take it as seriously as I should have.
Those are memories that stay with you and every other camp that I went into, I was in really good shape. I learned a great deal about what you have to do to become a pro hockey player from that camp, and I incorporate that into my coaching philosophy today. Everything I pretty much do as a coach is drawn from experiences because young kids don’t know what to do. They have no idea how hard they have to work because they are only used to working as hard as they need to at their current level. In no way does that prepare you for being NHL conditioned.
That is why we will push them really hard today. You have to have a barometer of seeing how hard they worked during the summer and you have to let them know that this is the pace you want to keep during the year. If they are not at that pace, then they need to get there in a hurry.
Young guys today come to camp and are not even close to being out of shape. If one of them is then it is definitely something I can talk to them about and identify with them and help them get going in the right direction. If a player is in the proper condition then they can pat themselves on the back knowing that they worked hard all summer and made it through today’s practice.
One of our main goals this week is to get the group to band together as a team really quickly. We want them to think they are all Washington Capitals and to work hard and to do things the right way. We have a game Friday in Philadelphia and we want to do everything we are capable of doing this week to prepare for that game. We also want them to have a feeling that they know what it takes to play for this club, so when they come back to development camp next summer or to camp next year that they are ready to go. If they do that then any mistake they made this year won’t be made again next year.
Behind the Bench: 9-14-09
Coach Boudreau's second column of Behind the Bench
Monday, 09.14.2009 / 12:21 PM / Features
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was supposed to be on United Airlines flight 175. That was one of the two flights that flew into the World Trade Center. I was named head coach of the AHL’s expansion Manchester franchise in the off-season, and Los Angeles was our NHL affiliate. The only reason I wasn’t on that flight was because Andy Murray, who coached the Kings, wanted to have a dinner with his staff prior to training camp.
Andy was a very meticulous coach, so it was a bit odd that this dinner was not on the original itinerary because of how detail-orientated he was. I was originally supposed to travel with my assistant coach Bobby Jay and Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis in our scouting department because we all lived in the same area. At Andy’s request, the Kings changed mine and Bobby’s tickets and we flew from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 10 instead. At the time, I did not think anything of it, but looking back now, Andy’s decision to have a dinner with his staff saved my life. The ramifications run deep. Ace and Mark were not as fortunate. Everyone remembers where they were on that day, and I have the memory of losing a couple good friends. It’s rough.
I thank my lucky stars every day that Andy scheduled a coaches meeting. I thanked him a thousand times over that week for making the change, but it was a double-edged sword because one of my better friends, Ace, went through that. You feel guilty for thanking him and for changing the flight, but at the same time you are very grateful. It’s weird. I owe him my life.
The most chilling thing for me is that everyone was calling my wife, Crystal, around 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 and asking, “Did Bruce go to Los Angeles? Is he safe?” She did not know what they were talking about because she had not turned on the TV. Once they told her what was happening, she called my hotel and woke me up at around 6 a.m. to make sure I was there and fine, even though we had talked the night before after I landed.
My kids were in school in Canada at the time and when they found out, they ran out of the building and they ran the two miles to home. They did not have any cell phones at that time and had to phone Crystal to make sure I was safe. They were scared stiff because they knew that was the day that I was supposed to fly, and I did not tell them that I had changed flights. It was pretty chilling to listen to them tell the story. As a father, you picture them looking up at the TV screen in the school, seeing this and knowing that your dad is supposed to be on that flight.
There are two things that I do every year now because of that day. The first is that I make sure I play in the Ace Bailey Golf Classic in Manchester. I don’t care where I am, I always go back for it. His wife, Kathy, has done a great job creating a charity for Ace and the charity does a lot for hospitals in the Boston area.
The second is now that I have the ability to have a dinner with the coaches the day before camp, we have one.
Behind the Bench: 9-21-09
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau's weekly column
Monday, 09.21.2009 / 10:15 AM / Features
Last week and this week, I have been doing something that is not fun, but is totally necessary—that is cutting guys.
I was cut 12 times at NHL camps, so I know how it feels. I don’t like doing it and we do not take it lightly. Players today work so hard in the summer and come in with the thought that they can make the team. The average fan can look at a roster and say this guy or that guy is making the team and that may be true, but when you are a coach it is difficult.
I hate giving bad news. I don’t think anybody relishes in firing people and that is basically what you are doing when you are a coach up here. We try to have such a competitive camp and try to leave the ones going to Hershey in a positive frame of mind. I was on the receiving end of the generic cut many times where the coach says you are being sent down and that you need to, “Go down and work at it.” I never appreciated that, so I tell our guys the truth. I tell them they did not work hard enough or I tell them that they are going to have to work really hard to get a spot in Hershey because they are usually so good. I let them know what they need to work on why they are not in the NHL. The guys that are going to go to Hershey will know that we know they can play. Now we can call them up and they can make inroads here and do the things that can help them possibly get to the NHL on a full-time basis. Even though it is a miserable day in most of their lives, we want to leave them with a very positive outlook on the future.
However, we do not want them to get the feeling that just because they did not make this team that the minor league team is an easy walk. The Hershey team works so hard and is always a threat to win the Calder Cup, so I think that is an important thing to tell them.
Throughout camp we also try to reward guys who maybe are not going to make the team, but who work really hard while they are here. For instance, this year Ryan Jasinsky was just invited to rookie camp. He did a great job and got into a great fight in the rookie game so we rewarded him and invited him to the main camp. We have guys slated for Hershey who have been working so hard that we are going to keep them around for a few more days and they might get into a game. There were guys in Chicago the other night who worked so hard and played so well that we are going to have to give them another game. A lot of times the additional game is based upon not that they are going to make the team, but to see if their consistency is going to hold up. If it is then maybe they can be a genuine call up.