Bruce Boudreau, a power lefty from Toronto, looked like he could be inserted into the Twins’ rotation tonight after hurling a sneaky curveball that even fooled Twins manager Paul Molitor.
“There was a little stuff on it,” the recently-named Wild coach cracked as he licked two fingers on his throwing hand.
Boudreau, wearing a Twins No. 16 jersey, threw out the first pitch before tonight’s game against his hometown Blue Jays.
He was visibly freaking out as he warmed up in front of the Twins’ dugout. The former outfielder hadn’t thrown a baseball since throwing out the first pitch once before a Washington Nationals game.
“It was more nerve racking than coaching a Game 7,” Boudreau said, not kidding. “When you get out there and you’re walking, the mound looks so far away. I just wanted to get it across the plate. I just didn’t want to bounce it in. I got lucky because I threw it before I started thinking.”
Boudreau, a former junior star in Toronto, was also apparently one heck of a baseball player.
“I used to be really thin,” he said, laughing. “I could run and I could throw.”
In 1973, Boudreau says the Pittsburgh Pirates actually offered him a chance to go down to Florida and play “A Ball” for the summer.
“Back in the day, what you did is play hockey ‘til April and put your stuff down and pick up your glove and you played baseball all summer,” Boudreau said. “I was pretty good, I thought. Pittsburgh offered me a deal, but we just won the Memorial Cup in junior and I said, ‘I’m going to be a hockey player.’ I’ve so many times regretted it. What a summer that would have been even if I was going to be a hockey player. So it’s just a good story because it never panned out.”
Boudreau was ecstatic to meet Molitor, the 1993 World Series MVP for the Blue Jays. Boudreau grew up a Yankees fans but quickly changed allegiances when Toronto got a MLB team.
“I went to as many games as I could,” he said. “Dave Stieb was my hero when I was with the Leafs. You meet some of these guys and you’re just in awe. They’re baseball players. You don’t think of yourself as anything when growing up in the city. But the Dave Stiebs and Paul Molitors of the world, pretty cool.
“That World Series team, they were so strong. They had 50,000 people all the time. They drew 4 million people that year. It was a hopping baseball market.”
Boudreau arrived back in Minnesota on Wednesday and had his first set of meetings today down at Wild headquarters. These are the pro meetings as the Wild sets the table for the summer now that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr are back in town from a retreat to the Bahamas at owner Craig Leipold’s home.
They’ll meet again Friday. “Today was learning the lay of the land,” said Boudreau, who also got his laptop set up so he can start digging into Wild video.
Also Friday, Boudreau, who has already had one brief conversation with Zach Parise, will meet face to face with Parise and Ryan Suter. He said he’s waiting until after the world championships to call captain Mikko Koivu.
“I don’t want to interfere with that,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau also said he will discuss the coaching staff with Fletcher on Friday. Right now, the assistants are in limbo and Fletcher said at the Boudreau news conference that he wants to let them know as soon as possible if they won’t be part of the upcoming staff so they have chances to get other jobs.
That staff includes assistants Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor, Darby Hendrickson and Andrew Brunette and goalie coach Bob Mason.
Over the last two years in Anaheim, Boudreau’s assistants were let go by GM Bob Murray.
Asked if he felt his legs were cut out from under him, Boudreau said, “I don’t think it’s the best thing. But, I mean, the guys that Bob Murray selected were really intelligent, good hockey people, so it made it easy. But you always like to think you know the person that you’re standing beside.”
Fletcher has said he will talk to Boudreau about his vision for a coaching staff and see if it aligns with Boudreau’s vision. But Fletcher has also indicated that Boudreau will have “free rein” to pick his staff.
Boudreau said, “Usually in the past, one guy runs the defense, there’s myself and another guy to my left ends up usually running the power play while at the same time talking to players as they come back to the bench because I can’t focus on telling them what to do while also trying to match lines and get ready for the next shift.”
Boudreau calls the forwards and there will be an eye in the sky. The past few years, the Wild atypically had three assistants on the bench, something that will almost surely change under Boudreau.
Boudreau will return to southern California this weekend and hop in the car for a 2 1/2 –day drive to his offseason home in Hershey, Pa.
One problem: One of the Hershey Bears players is renting his home, “so I keep waiting for them to lose and they’re in the conference finals. I keep texting the coach saying, ‘Hurry up and lose so I can get home,’” Boudreau said, kiddingly.
Boudreau said he knows folks with HERCO, so he plans to live in the Hershey Lodge for the time being. In the meantime, his wife has been online looking for homes in Minnesota. They hope to purchase one by the July development camp and move here officially in early August.
“Quite frankly, once you get into the office, your blood starts boiling,” Boudreau said. “Once I start watching games, I’ll want to be here all the time. But right now, moving cross country and uprooting a lot of people and things, there’s a lot on my plate for a little while. But I’ll be back again soon.”
That’s it for now. If you didn’t hear my latest podcast with Jim Souhan, here it is. It's a fun one.