Bruce Boudreau was in tears as he walked off the bench with the Vancouver Canucks for what is likely to be his last
The Vancouver Canucks lost 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, but the team and their coach left the ice at Rogers Place to deafening cheers.
Bruce Boudreau, who was reportedly coaching his last game behind the bench, was serenaded with “Bruce, there he is!” sing when the time is up.
Boudreau could see him burst into tears as he stood there taking it all in.
After the buzzer sounds, the crowd and players in Vancouver salute an emotional Bruce Boudreau 💛👏 pic.twitter.com/TtvT8pAkO2
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) January 22, 2023
Boudreau applauded and gestured to the fans before finally walking out and into the dressing room. It was a powerful and emotional moment. It was also unique. Rarely does a coach stay with the team after the franchise has already decided to part ways.
“You never know if it’s the end,” Boudreau, 68, said of his time in the NHL during a 10-minute press conference. “So if you’ve been around for almost 50 years, most of your life, and if it’s the last, I had to stand there and look at the crowd and say, ‘Okay, remember that moment’.
“I got sacked once in the middle of the season – actually, they haven’t sacked us yet – and George (McPhee) called me at my house and we had a long chat and that was it. It’s different when you can say goodbye to the players. You are emotional. I am emotional. Obviously it will be something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve had a few people like me in the past, but not the way the fans treated me. It’s just…”
He choked. “The city is fantastic,” Boudreau said.
As Boudreau entered the dressing room, he thanked his players and tried to address them.
“I didn’t do too much,” Boudreau said. “They all came into my room one by one, so that made it (the moment) more difficult.
“Fifteen of them came to me and we all cried together. I think they would go through a wall for me and for a coach, honestly, that’s all you can ask for.”
Vancouver has a Player of the Game award — a championship belt the Canucks award based on wins. (Here’s an example from earlier in the season.)
Despite the loss, the Canucks gave it to their head coach.
“I will cherish it for the rest of my life because every time I look at it, I remember what we experienced here together,” Boudreau said.
The Canucks are expected to hire Rick Tocchet and hold a press conference on Monday to welcome the new coach to the team. It’s unclear if any of Boudreau’s staff will stay or who the Canucks will hire, but Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night In Canada that former NHL players Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote are two people who they are said to be attention-grabbing as it irritates possible assistants.
Bruce Crystal’s wife said her husband had no news after the game so he will be back on Sunday morning.
After the game. No news. He will work tomorrow!
— Hockey Mom (@BoudreauCrystal) January 22, 2023
“I don’t know why I’m still here,” Boudreau said. “But maybe because the next games are Chicago, Seattle and Columbus. The new group, good luck. I thought it was over in November when certain things were said. It wasn’t. We went on and on. The last bit has been pretty tough. In the last 12 games we played, the average win rate was 0.610. Lots of one goal losses, lots of empty net goals. The boys gave it their all. I am so proud of her. All of them.”
As for what’s next, Boudreau just hopes he can stay in the game. Back in central Pennsylvania, Boudreau owns the Hershey Cubs – a USPHL ice hockey team.
“I have a team of juniors,” Boudreau said. “I might have to send my kid out and train there for the rest of the year. It’s been tough the last few weeks, but I’ve watched every (NHL) game, I’m definitely going to watch every game. I kind of want to come back to whether it’s on TV. I still have the passion to do it [coaching]. I never missed an exercise that wasn’t optional. I love the game and I know the game. Hopefully something will work. I hope this is not my last hurrah.”
While the Canucks lost the game, Boudreaus won his final act as head coach. The bench boss challenged a Zach Hyman goal after the Oilers forward hit Spencer Martin’s pad while running through the crease. The goal gave the Oilers a 4-2 lead with 5:27 left in the third period.
After a lengthy review, the officials waved the ball away from the goal, giving the Canucks one last chance for overtime. The fans went wild.
The Canucks angrily tried to tie it but ultimately couldn’t.
“You put your heart to the test,” Boudreau said. “Last night was a bit because I knew it was the end. They played my ass tonight. And the other coaches. We don’t know anything about the status, who is leaving or staying. I am sure it will fall relatively soon. You played hard. You can’t ask for more than the players risk it for you.”
What he wanted people to remember about him, Boudreau said, was his dedication to the sport.
“I don’t think there’s a person who loves the game more than me, and I’m going to miss the game when I’m done with it,” Boudreau said. “I hope I never go out again”