The 11-and 12-year-olds on a Pee Wee hockey team were holding a practice at the Rockville Ice Arena in Maryland. Gray Erwin was a defenseman and Brady Boudreau was in the nets.
The gathering of hockey moms included Margaret Ann Erwin and Crystal Boudreau. They started talking and found out they had something in common: husbands who were gone a lot.
Jay Erwin was a Marine pilot. He had two deployments to Afghanistan and another to the Mideast — two for one year and another for 8 ½ months.
Bruce Boudreau was the coach of the Washington Capitals. There are a lot of road trips for an NHL coach, starting with exhibitions in September and in Bruce’s case, including the playoffs in 89 percent of his seasons.
Margaret Ann had another son, Andrew, who was two years younger than Gray and also a hockey player. That gave her double duty driving to hockey rinks while also trying to beat the traffic of the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Hockey moms have a tendency to rely on one another. Margaret Ann and Crystal became good friends, and so did their families.
“Bruce has been a strong supporter of the military,’’ Margaret Ann said. “Knowing Jay was in Afghanistan … he couldn’t have been nicer to the boys and our family.
“Bruce is much more than a hockey coach. As busy as he is, he finds time to get involved in the community. I hope Minnesotans appreciate what they are going to have here as the Wild coach.
“He has winning teams as a coach, but he’s also a great guy. He’s … that’s all, just a great guy.’’
Boudreau had four division- winning teams with the Capitals from 2007 to 2011, then was fired early in his fifth season — in late November 2011. Two days later, he was hired as the coach of the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks missed the playoffs in 2011-12, the only time in nine seasons a Boudreau team would do so. The Ducks followed with four division titles, and then fired him on April 29 after a seventh-game loss to Nashville in the first round.
This time, it was an eight-day gap from Boudreau’s firing until he told the Wild that he would take its offer to be the franchise’s fourth coach (including interim John Torchetti) since the fall of 2009.
Ottawa was another strong bidder for Boudreau. He has a daughter and a new grandchild there.
In the end, Boudreau took the Wild’s four-year deal, and this made a hockey household in Eden Prairie very happy.
Jay Erwin retired from the Marines after 21 years in 2012 and the family moved to Minnesota. It’s a family of six, with the two boys, and older daughter Catherine and younger daughter Siri.
There was no real connection for the Erwins to Minnesota, other than the desire to find a place to settle.
“My dad worked for the U.S. Forest Service, so I lived all over as a child and a teenager,’’ Margaret Ann said. “And then I married Jay, a Marine, and we moved around with our kids.’’
Margaret Ann was in Sun Valley, Idaho, as a young girl and became a figure skater. “I didn’t make it to the nationals or anything like that, but I was what they call a ‘gold medal’ skater — meaning you’re adept at the elements,’’ she said.
Later, she used her skating skills to become a “power skating’’ coach for hockey players. One of her students in Maryland had moved from Minnesota. He gave a glowing account of life here.
“Minnesota’s a great place for hockey,’’ a reporter said in a conversation on Sunday night.
Margaret Ann immediately said: “Minnesota’s a great place for a lot more reasons than hockey.’’
Yes, but the hockey part’s been pretty good, right?
“There’s nothing in the country that’s comparable to high school hockey in Minnesota,’’ she said. “It’s amazing.’’
Gray was a senior and Andrew was a sophomore, both defensemen, for Eden Prairie’s varsity this past season. The Eagles lost to Wayzata 5-3 in the Class 2A state title game.
Margaret Ann is busy giving power skating lessons to aspiring Minnesota high school players. Her first lesson on Monday was at 6:45 a.m.
And now, the move to this mecca of snow and ice has a bonus: The Boudreaus will be moving to Minnesota.
“When we moved here, I told the boys, ‘We’re Ducks fans in this house,’ ” Margaret Ann said. “Now, we can go all the way as Minnesotans, and be Wild fans.”