As the Washington Capitals continue their search for a head coach, a former one received a warm welcome as he returned to the D.C. area Tuesday. Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau teamed up with Comcast SportsNet color commentator Craig Laughlin, skating alongside locals at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel.
Hockey players signed up for the one-hour practice session to get instruction from Boudreau, who is still revered in Washington. Donning his Ducks gear, Boudreau ran them through skating, shooting, and passing drills. When a couple of exercises went awry, Boudreau gave them a taste of the motivational methods he used on HBO’s “24/7” two years ago.
“I think he’s hilarious. Laid back, a lot of fun. A great hockey mind,” said Ryan Reese, an adult league player from Columbia. “I definitely miss him as a coach.”
Boudreau still has a home in the area but is in the process of moving his family to Anaheim. He’s pleased with the three years he has remaining on his contract, which will allow him to live out there long enough for his son to graduate from high school. He’s also impressed with the knowledge of hockey in Southern California, which has gotten a boost from two Stanley Cup winning teams in the past five years — Anaheim in 2007 and Los Angeles this season.
As for the Capitals, Boudreau still watches them closely.
“I’ve made some tremendous relationships with some of the players and the people in this area,” Boudreau said. “For me not want to see them do well would be ludicrous. For Mike Green, I had him as a 19-year-old in Hershey, to Brooks Laich, the same thing. These guys I’ve coached for a long time, so of course I want to see them do well.”
When asked about his thoughts on the new coach, Boudreau didn’t speculate.
“Obviously it’ll be an interesting thing when they appoint him and I’m sure he’ll do a good job because he’s got a lot to work with,” he said. “This is still a very good hockey club.”
Boudreau spent just more than four seasons coaching the Capitals before he was replaced in November by former Washington captain Dale Hunter. Only days after his dismissal, Boudreau inherited a lackluster Anaheim team from Randy Carlyle. Though the Ducks missed the playoffs, Boudreau’s 27-23-8 record earned him a contract extension in May.
Despite Boudreau’s premature exit from Washington, Caps fans haven’t forgotten his accomplishments.
“I think he was one of the best coaches the Caps ever had,” said Greg Mumma of White Marsh, one of the practice participants.
“He revitalized the city’s interest in the hockey team,” added Ari Allal of Rockville.
With a record of 201-88-40, Boudreau was the fastest coach in history to win 200 regular season games. He won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 2008, and led the Capitals to the top of the Eastern Conference standings twice, including the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. While that wasn’t enough to lead the Caps past the second round of the playoffs in four attempts, his personality warmed the hearts of Washington fans.
“This is one of the reasons I think this is the greatest city in the world,” Boudreau said. “The people have been so nice to me. I’ve made so many friends here. It’s taken me an awful long time to find a spot that I truly love. This is an area that I’ll always truly love.”