The best thing about having a team-issued credential to cover the Lightning is that I'm a Lightning fan, and I like to believe that being a credentialed member of the media allows me to be an ambassador on behalf of fellow fans who will never get to experience the game of hockey that way. Through this weekly column, I'll be sharing peeks behind the magical media curtain with you. Today, we're going to talk about former Lightning head coach Guy Boucher.
Even though the nature of sports is that people move around all the time, it’s always weird when someone comes back with another team. It’s actually far more unusual when somebody stays in one place for more than a few years.
But when someone “comes home”, you’re glad to see them (even though it seems strange to see them in different colors), and you hope they’re doing well, even though their success is in direct opposition to your rooting interests. Such was the case last night when Guy Boucher brought his Ottawa Senators to Amalie Arena, a building known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum the last time he was here.
Boucher was fired rather unceremoniously in 2013 during a second consecutive season in which the Lightning under-performed after earning a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011. As such, I’m not sure he received adequate credit for what he did when he was here.
In his first assignment as an NHL coach, he posted a record of 97-79-20 and broke a three-year drought of postseason appearances, a major component in the franchise’s transformation.
“Transformation” is a word the Lightning organization likes to use when describing what’s occurred since the team was
rescued from sold by Oren Koules. It’s apt because with the state the franchise was in, mere overhauls and rebuilding campaigns would have been inadequate. Owner Jeff Vinik and general manager Steve Yzerman were huge components of that transformation, and to maybe a lesser-but-still significant extent, so was Guy Boucher.
Coach Boucher’s first season in 2010-11 also happens to have been my first with Raw Charge, my first covering any team in any sport on a regular basis. We were NHL rookies together!
Prior to activities starting during the second day of that pre-season training camp at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, I was hanging around in the open loft area upstairs between the two rinks in the facility, waiting for things to get underway. Coach Boucher came out of the locker room area and headed straight to me, stuck his hand out and said, “Hi. I’m Guy Boucher”.
I was a little taken aback but I shook his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Clark Brooks and I write for Raw Charge.” He replied, “I know. I saw you here yesterday and didn’t know who you were so I asked around. Welcome.” Needless to say I was really taken aback after that. Coach Boucher can be kind of... intense (see photo above).
When somebody who is that intense has you checked out, it can be a little intimidating. But he did offer a welcome, so I thought we were cool and we were.
One night after a game, he and I happened to be leaving the arena at the same time. He took the opportunity to offer a short, unsolicited, positive critique of the work we did at Raw Charge. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day and I was extremely flattered.
He was always good to me and in turn, good to Raw Charge. Never more so than the time I was writing a feature article in the wake of the injuries suffered by Minnesota teenage hockey players Jack Jablonski and Jenna Privette, occurring days apart in January, 2012. I approached coach Boucher to get his thoughts. He asked for a little bit of background on the situation (as his coaching duties had precluded him from being completely up to speed on all the details), thought for a minute and gave me an absolutely perfect, appropriate quote.
"On behalf of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, we want to send out our best wishes to the players and their families for what's happened. It's very unfortunate and nobody wants to see that, whether it's accidental or not. The end result is devastating. We feel that the hockey world should stick together in these moments, to wish them the best in their recovery and the same with everyone else involved in the game."
It drove home the point of the article and I’ll always feel indebted to him for that.
I’ll always feel a connection with coach Boucher. I think highly of him, I’m glad he’s back in the NHL and I’m glad he’s enjoying success in Ottawa.