The Vancouver Canucks fell to the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Saturday, but the team and its coach left the ice to a deafening cheer at Rogers Place.
Bruce Boudreau, who reportedly was coaching his final game behind the bench, was serenaded with a “Bruce, there it is!” chant as time expired.
Boudreau could be seen tearing up as he stood there, taking it all in.
After the buzzer sounds, the Vancouver crowd and players salute an emotional Bruce Boudreau 💛👏 pic.twitter.com/TtvT8pAkO2
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) January 22, 2023
Boudreau applauded the fans and pointed to them before eventually exiting and walking down to the locker room. It was a powerful and emotional moment. It was also unique. Rarely does a coach remain 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 when you’ve been in it for almost 50 years, the majority of your life, and if it’s the end, I had to stay out there and just look out at the crowd and say ‘Okay, remember this moment.’
“I was fired once in the middle of the season — by the way they haven’t fired me yet — and George (McPhee) called me to my house and we had a long talk and that was it. This is different when you get a chance to say goodbye to the players. They’re emotional. I’m emotional. It’ll obviously be something that stays with me for my whole life. I’ve had a couple people like me in the past, but not the way the fans have been treating me. It’s just…”
He choked up. “The city’s amazing,” Boudreau said.
When Boudreau went into the locker room, he thanked his players and tried to give them a speech.
“I didn’t make it too far,” Boudreau said. “They all came into my room individually so it just made (the moment) harder.
“Fifteen of them come up to me and we were all crying together. I think they would have went through a wall for me and for a coach that’s all you can ask for quite frankly.”
Vancouver has a player of the game award — a Canucks’ championship belt — that they give out after victories. (Here’s an example below from earlier in the season.)
Despite losing, the Canucks gave it to their head coach.
“I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life because every time I look at it I’ll remember what we had together here,” Boudreau said.
The Canucks are expected to hire Rick Tocchet and hold a press conference on Monday welcoming the new coach to the team. It’s unclear if anyone on Boudreau’s staff will stay or who the Canucks will hire, but Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night In Canada that former NHL’ers Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote are two people that are rumored to be getting attention as possible assistants.
Bruce’s wife, Crystal, said that her husband did not get any news after the game so he’ll be back Sunday morning.
Post game. No news. He goes to work tomorrow!
— hockeymom (@BoudreauCrystal) January 22, 2023
“I don’t know the reasoning 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 there was certain things said. It wasn’t. We kept going and kept going. The last stretch was pretty tough. The last 12 games, the average winning percentage was .610 that we played. A lot of one-goal losses, a lot of empty-net goal losses. The guys gave it their all. I’m so proud of them. Every one of them.”
As to what’s next, Boudreau just hopes he can stay in the game. Back in centeral Pennsylvania, Boudreau owns the Hershey Cubs — a USPHL hockey team.
“I own a junior team,” Boudreau said. “I might have to fire my kid and coach there the rest of the year. It’s been tough the last couple weeks but I used to watch every (NHL) game, I’m sure I’m going to watch every game. I want to get back into it somehow whether it’s doing TV. I still got the passion to do [coaching]. I never missed a practice that wasn’t an optional. I love the game and know the game. Hopefully something works out. Hopefully this isn’t my last hurrah.”
While the Canucks lost the game, Boudreau’s won his final act as head coach. The bench boss challenged a Zach Hyman goal after the Oilers forward hit the pad of Spencer Martin as he skated through the crease. The goal put the Oilers up 4-2 with 5:27 left in the third period.
After a long review, officials waved off the goal, giving the Canucks one last opportunity for overtime. The fans went wild.
The Canucks furiously tried to tie but ultimately could not.
“They tried their heart out,” Boudreau said. “Last night was a little, knowing it’s the end type of thing. Tonight they played their ass off for me. And the other coaches. We don’t know any of the status of who’s going or staying. I’m sure that’s going to come down relatively soon. They played hard. You can’t ask for anything more than the players laying it on the line for you.”
As for what he wanted people to remember about him, Boudreau said it was his dedication to the sport.
“I don’t think there’s a person who loves the game more than me and I’ll miss the game when I get out of it,” Boudreau said. “I hope I’ll never get out of it.”
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