Bruce Boudreau was hired on Thanksgiving of 2007. He was let go the Monday after Thanksgiving of 2011. In between, he made four playoff appearances, seven million media appearances, starred on HBO, became a local commercial icon, played golf at Congressional Country Club, went to Redskins and Nats games, wrote a book, was profiled on A1 of The Post, and generally had about as successful four-year run as you could possibly have, absent playoff success.
The headlines on his resume here will always be the miracle run to the 2008 division title, and the fastest sprint to 200 wins in modern NHL history. And those were indeed great accomplishments. But here are 10 other, less serious, moments to remember.
10. Both of Boudreau’s playoff series wins came against the New York Rangers. During the first, much of the focus centered on Rangers boss John Tortorella, after he squirted water and then threw a water bottle at a fan. During the second, much of the focus centered on Boudreau, after he said this about Madison Square Garden:
“Well, the one thing, its reputation is far better than the actual building,” the coach said. “I mean, it’s nothing. The locker rooms are horrible. The benches are horrible. There’s no room for anything. But the reputation of being in Madison Square Garden is what makes it famous. Also, our building’s a lot louder, too. So I mean, they can say what they want, but it’s not that loud in there.”
And thus, “Can You Hear Us” became the soundtrack for the rest of that series.
9. A Boudreau bobblehead? A Boudreau bobblehead. There haven’t been many D.C. coaches in the last decade or two who could have inspired such a doll.
“At first i was against the idea...but when I saw it, I thought they did a really good job on it,” he said. “I mean, I hate seeing my picture anywhere, but I thought it looked pretty good....I’m getting older, and when you were an athlete and you were always in good shape, you thought, ‘Ok.” And then you get older, and you put on a little weight, and you lose your hair. I just don’t look looking at myself.”
8. The story of his first practice after getting hired has been told many times, but it still works, especially in light of what happened this autumn. From the USA Today:
Crystal programmed the GPS in Boudreau’s Chevy Impala and he had three hours of drive time to think how to run his first NHL practice. Boudreau decided to chastise Ovechkin, the player he considers the best in the world.
“I was like a referee looking to make a call,” Boudreau says. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to get the respect of these guys right off the bat or they’re going to think I’m just a minor league, interim guy.’ It would have been really easy for me to yell at David Steckel because I coached him (before). That wouldn’t have garnered anything. But to do it to Alex?
“I waited for him to make a mistake, and about 20 minutes into practice he did, and I said, ‘Alex, you can’t do that. You have to do this.’ And he stayed behind me and said, ‘Well, show me on the board.’ I was in trouble if he balked. But Alex is very coachable. He always wants to learn.”
Those were simpler times. Plus, he drove an Impala, and wore NASCAR-branded eyeglasses and $10 off-the-rack ties.
7. Oh, the Cup Holders. Honestly, Boudreau’s emergence into an all-purpose pitchman for local products was amazing to behold. Here’s how the American Service Center and Mercedes-Benz of Alexandria marketing director once described it to me:
“He created such a persona for himself,” she explained. “Mercedes is an aspirational car, and I think Bruce is a really great aspirational story. It was really good for us; like the common man feel. When he came in here he was driving an Impala. To me, it just went with his whole story. It’s like, he’s arrived.”
Also, she once asked him for commercial suggestions.
“S550 with the top down and a gorgeous 22-year old blond in the passenger seat,” he offered.
6. The victory salute. He had a memorable way of celebrating, and he did it during the three biggest on-ice moments of his career: clinching the first playoff berth, beating the Rangers in ‘09, and beating the Rangers in ‘11. Dang, that makes me wistful.
5. Bruce Boudreau did more with The F Word than virtually anyone I’ve ever seen. This was mildly highlighted in HBO’s 24/7, where he dropped 31 F bombs in the show’s first 60 minutes. There was nothing better than this brilliant bit:
“We’re lookin [bleeping] defeated. We’re looking [bleeping] defeated right now. Show some [bleeping] courage and [bleeping] play the game properly. You’ll score three [bleeping] goals if you do. I’m [bleeping] sick and tired of losing. Let’s [bleeping] get our [bleeps] out of our heads.”
4. Hey, speaking of Pittsburgh, I loved hearing Bruce Boudreau speaking of Pittsburgh. He embraced everything about being in Washington, including rooting against the city of Pittsburgh. Here’s what he said about last year’s Super Bowl:
“I think Pittsburgh’s gonna win, but I can’t cheer for a team from Pittsburgh, so I’m hoping for Green Bay.”
Then I asked Boudreau if he was serious.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s Pittsburgh. Hate that city.”
Not sure that any other D.C. pro coach since Gibbs was willing to throw himself into a rivalry like that.
3. And Boudreau was, for a time, the most popular coach in D.C. by a zillion miles. This first started to sink in during April of 2008, when he was shown on the big screen, fans went nuts, and he got all sheepish as the ovation continued.
“It was amazing,” his wife later told me. “It was very emotional for me. You’re very proud. Let’s be honest, when he first got the job the blogs were carving him up. Some of the fans had him fired before he ever coached a game. Now to see that they have given him a chance and they love him, it’s nice.”
“I put my head down,” the coach said. “I was just so friggin’ embarrassed. But guys were telling me, and my wife told me, so that’s pretty cool. I don’t know, I get embarrassed with that stuff....It’s because we’re winning. You know, if we lose I’ll be pretty unpopular. That’s the way coaches are. So I’m not worried about it. It’s very nice, and I’m glad they feel that way at this time.”
2. Barbecue sauce, as captured by HBO, will always be a part of his legacy. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. And honestly, as much as he was loved in Washington, he was often mocked and insulted in other cities. Will be interesting to see how he’s received in his next home city, because there will be a next.
1. Seriously, there will never, ever be a better local ad campaign than this one, with Boudreau doing bird calls. I know about the Hadeed Carpet stuff, and I know there were others, but this is where Boudreau’s off-ice personality shined brightest.
(As a final note, when he was trying to win hockey games and establish himself and talk about hockey, Boudreau would answer every dumb question I ever threw at him, often with spontaneous and perfect wit. It was always appreciated.)
More on Boudreau firing/Hunter hiring:
Poll: Was it the right move?
Tracee Hamilton: Boudreau had to go
Box Seats: Caps say “Goodnight Bruce”
Q&A: Boswell on firing
Photos: Boudreau fired