ANAHEIM, Calif. – When he’s back among the palm trees, sandy beaches and ocean breezes, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t have a favorite spot to revisit.
But he still reminisces.
Boudreau flashes back to the people and experiences that filled the parts of five seasons he spent leading the Ducks before joining the Wild a year ago. He’ll catch up with employees at Honda Center on Friday when the Wild’s three-game road trip continues against the Ducks, and chat with the same fans who filled the seats when he was behind the home bench.
He’s also reminded of the players he coached, but it doesn’t take a pit stop in Anaheim or Washington, D.C., for Boudreau’s former pupils to cross his mind, because he’s already keeping up to date on their careers.
“I like to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing,” Boudreau said.
Although these players are no longer his responsibility, they were at one point.
And that’s reason enough to still care.
“The people that you crossed paths with and what they became,” he said, “I think it’s really important.”
While he can’t pinpoint just how many players he’s mentored over the years, Boudreau recognizes the names.
They’ll stand out in a line in an article or pop up on the TV screen when he’s watching hockey at home with his wife, Crystal, switching between games once a notification on Crystal’s smartwatch tells them a goal has been scored or a shootout is starting.
“She has to record all her shows to watch them when I’m not around,” Boudreau said. “Hockey’s on all the time.”
So he’s aware of what’s going on with Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin — “I know he got his 20th [goal Monday] night,” Boudreau said. “I know he’s getting a little more gray.”
But he also knows what’s up with former players because they reach out to him — via Christmas cards, phone calls or in-person chats at the rink.
“You know you’ve made a difference, and I guess that’s what everyone wants in the world,” Crystal said. “They want to make a difference.”
Ovechkin and his parents hugged Boudreau when they saw him at the All-Star Game last season. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and his dad walked over to Crystal when they spotted her during a game in Anaheim during Boudreau’s final season there.
And defenseman Mike Green, whom Boudreau coached when both were with the Capitals, contacted Boudreau before signing with the Red Wings in 2015. Green wanted to know what team Boudreau thought was the best fit among the ones he was considering.
“A lot of ex-players reach out to him when they’re at a crossroads,” Crystal said, “because they know he’ll give them an honest opinion.”
The goal is the same every year, to win, and while he has yet to capture a Stanley Cup, Boudreau has enjoyed success as a Jack Adams Award winner, the fastest to reach 400 wins in NHL history and the point percentage leader among active coaches.
Those statistics and accolades matter and will define his career, but they’re not the only legacy Boudreau is building.
“I’m really hoping when it’s all said and done that I’ve impacted more people in a positive way than a negative way,” he said. “Sometimes the negative way you can’t help because you’ve got to cut guys. You’ve got to do things for the benefit of the team that you don’t necessarily like doing, but you have to do it or you’re not the coach or you’re not the person in charge. There’s some really good people that this happens to, but you just hope in the end you were honest with them.”
Eriksson Ek back
The Wild recalled center Joel Eriksson Ek from Iowa of the AHL on Wednesday.
Eriksson Ek was assigned to the minors Nov. 21 to rebuild his confidence after contributing a goal and two assists in 20 games with the Wild. The 20-year-old, who was the 20th overall pick in 2015, registered seven points (three goals) in seven games with Iowa.
The Wild was off Wednesday and returns to practice Thursday.