After playing for 17 teams and coaching 10 more in the past 44 years, Bruce Boudreau is an expert on how to move around North America efficiently.
“I’ve seen it all. Until this one,” the Wild coach said Thursday before recounting one of the most harrowing relocation tales imaginable. “This was an interesting move, to say the least.”
Boudreau and his wife, Crystal, have spent their first two months in Minnesota dealing with police authorities and insurance companies after a truck accident in North Carolina resulted in destroyed belongings — and a stolen safe that housed important documents, championship rings and valuable comic books.
After Boudreau was fired by the Anaheim Ducks last spring, he and Crystal decided to move all their belongings back to their already furnished offseason home in Hershey, Pa.
Once there, Boudreau decided, “Forget that, let’s just move lock, stock and barrel to Minnesota — so we had to get another move orchestrated.”
Instead of using the Wild’s preferred moving company, the Boudreaus went with a less reputable one from the East Coast. The movers arrived with two trucks, then realized they didn’t have enough room because they were basically moving two houses to Minnesota. So one more truck was rented and a couple more movers were hired.
The move began July 24. But because the Boudreaus were heading to St. Catharines, Ontario, for the coach’s hockey school; then to Biloxi, Miss., for a 1999 Mississippi Sea Wolves championship team reunion, the trucks were to go into storage in Charlotte, N.C., and arrive at the Boudreaus’ new home in Woodbury on Aug. 7.
Crystal arrived Aug. 6.
“August 7, no furniture. No furniture on August 8, no furniture on August 9,” Bruce Boudreau said. “We can’t get hold of anybody from the moving company. On August 10, we finally do, and they say, ‘We’ve had some truck trouble, we will be there August 13.’ ”
Crystal slept on the floor of their empty new home while, said Bruce, “I’m having the time of my life in Mississippi, telling Crystal with every call, ‘I’m sorry, honey.’ ”
Aug. 13 came, and two trucks pulled up. What happened to the other truck? Boudreau said they were told, “It got into an accident, rolled over, hit a tree and everything’s destroyed.”
After some digging, the Boudreaus ascertained the accident occurred in Stokes County, N.C., on July 25; and they found out for the first time Aug. 13.
“Crystal’s losing it because one-third of two houses is gone,” Boudreau said. “We’re basically getting half-broken furniture. We lost five big-screen TVs, a bubble hockey game, popcorn makers, tables. My wife used to run a business, they called her the Chocolate Lady. The chocolate fountain was destroyed. So much stuff, pictures, lots of pictures, all the frames destroyed.
“And, we swear, they stored the stuff outside because there’s mold from rain on the boxes.”
While inventorying the items that didn’t arrive, the Boudreaus realized their safe was missing. The moving company claimed it must have been destroyed at the scene.
“It’s hard to destroy a safe,” Boudreau said.
In time, Boudreau says that video was discovered from the impound lot that shows two people moving the safe from the destroyed truck to another truck when the movers went there to recover Boudreau’s property.
One mover has been interviewed by police and denied the theft. As of Wednesday, the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office was awaiting a second mover to be interviewed by police in Jacksonville, Fla.
The case will then be turned over to a prosecuting attorney to determine if charges will be filed.
“We want justice,” Boudreau said. “I’ve never been sort of violated like this. I just want them arrested because I know they did it. I don’t think it was a planned robbery or anything, but they took advantage of the situation. But they didn’t count on there being video.
“I don’t see us getting anything back even though there’s that 1 percent of yourself that would like to think maybe.”
Besides documents such as birth certificates, Boudreau said there were two Memorial Cup championship rings and championship rings from the Hershey Bears and Sea Wolves in the safe.
There was an AHL Hall of Fame ring and an engraved Rolex given to him by Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis when he won his first division title.
“You’re never going to get your full value ever for any of the destroyed or stolen stuff, and money isn’t the thing,” Boudreau said.
“I know I make a lot of money, but I can’t get my ’72 and ’75 Memorial Cup rings replaced.”
Also in the safe, Boudreau says, were Spiderman Amazing Fantasy comic books. In 2007, Boudreau wanted to finish his basement in Hershey. He didn’t have the money, so he sold his lifelong comic book collection for $30,000.
“Ever since, I’ve been yelling at my wife, I want to start collecting comics again, so for my 60th birthday, she got me these things,” Boudreau, now 61, said, laughing.
“Spiderman No. 1 Amazing Fantasy is worth well over $1 million in mint condition. Now, this wasn’t in mint … but it was in good!”
Almost every day, the Boudreaus find something else missing.
“Even last night, I said, ‘Crystal, where’s … I can’t even remember now what I was looking for?’ ” Boudreau said. “She goes, ‘Geez, that mustn’t have made it either.’
“What are you going to do?”