When Alex Ovechkin retires and his accomplishments are reflected upon, one of the major influences on his career will be former head coach Bruce Boudreau. During that four-year period from Nov. 22, 2007 through Nov. 28, 2011, Ovechkin scored 197 goals in 313 games, including a career-high 65 goals in 2007-08. Boudreau led the Capitals to three consecutive division titles and playoff appearances after the Caps missed the postseason in the prior four years.
Boudreau, who was promoted from AHL Hershey where he guided the Bears to a Calder Cup in 2006, made a powerful connection with Capitals fans during his time in the District. No matter if it was for accidentally having barbecue sauce on his face, getting caught on-camera giving an expletive-laden speech, or telling stories to the media about his role in the iconic hockey movie Slap Shot, Boudreau grew the sport during the Rock The Red Era with his candor, humor, and self-deprecation.
Over a dozen years after he was let go from the Capitals, Boudreau remains a powerful part of the hockey community locally due to his contributions both in DC and Hershey. That enduring legacy would explain why he’s still sought out for local commercials that play on Monumental Network.
Boudreau’s latest ad is a return cameo for Joe Hadeed. The longtime head coach clumsily destroys “his house” (it’s actually Joe Hadeed’s home) while playing hockey inside. Bruce’s wife Crystal, who also stars in the ad, is none too pleased.
The commercial was written and directed by popular voice actor Wes Johnson, who has served as Capitals PA announcer for the last 23 years and recently received national acclaim for his character work in Bethesda’s new video game Starfield.
The new spot came about due to Johnson’s prior relationship with Hadeed – the man behind the DMV’s most recognized oriental carpet cleaning company. The two worked together with Bruce previously and thought the bench boss remained the perfect yet flawed person to work with.
“I’ve been friends with Joe Hadeed since we did the first commercial 12 years ago, and Joe reached out and asked me to reprise my writing and directing duties for the new spot,” Johnson said. “We knew we wanted to evoke nostalgia for the original, and also make it funny for today. Joe reached out to Bruce, and both he and Crystal were game for a reprise. Bruce is a naturally funny guy. He gets it, and for as smart a guy as he is, he plays off this image so well.
“Working with my crew from Vision Creative and original cameraman Max Acchione, we mirrored a few shots with identical blocking. Bruce has gotten better and more natural over the years and the Boudreaus just killed it day of.”
Creating an ad with Johnson and Boudreau was an easy decision for Hadeed who has been a Capitals’ season-ticket holder since 1991.
“I’ve been a fan of the team since Capital Center,” Hadeed said. “I was loyal to the team when they were losing and when Bruce, Ovi, and John Carlson came in it was very rewarding to be a long time fan.”
Boudreau breaking things
Boudreau chalked up the success of the 30-second ad to the script revolving around attributes that he was born with.
“They wanted to show how sloppy I am, which is not really out of character,” Boudreau said dryly.
Growing up in North York, Toronto, Boudreau admitted he had a lot of experience destroying houses — to the consternation of his loved ones.
“I wrecked every room I ever lived in,” Boudreau said. “It’s mini sticks. We just moved the furniture all over the place and if you’re on your knees, you’re playing on the carpet and you get two small nets, the two mini nets, and I’d call my friends over and we’d have games.
“Especially if you didn’t have a real working basement, we had to find places to play mini hockey when the weather was not good or in the middle of winter. If we weren’t outside, we were playing hockey inside. That’s totally what we did. The commercial itself looks a little far-fetched because there’s such a mess on the carpeting but the playing in the living room was not as far-fetched as you would think.”
Boudreau said that while he did not have a famous, dented-up dryer like Sidney Crosby, Young Bruce created real-life property damage in other ways.
“I got yelled at more for putting dents in the drywall” Boudreau said, admitting that he was not respectful enough. “You know, you move your stick one way and then you got this little three-inch gap sideways in the drywall and it would be ‘Wait till your dad gets home!” and I’d go, ‘Uh oh, here it goes again.’ My dad knew the hockey path that I was on so he was usually a little less mad than my mother.
“The only place that was pretty well outlawed was the dining room where your mom puts her china in a cabinet,” he added. “I found ways to wreck everything in the house.”
Hadeed and a horse
The first commercial the group shot together over a decade ago involved a stuffed penguin, streamers, and… a real life horse. The story goes like this. After Bruce invites his hockey team over for “the social event of the season,” a fight breaks out and somehow a farm animal gets let into the living room.
“You need new friends,” a frustrated Crystal Boudreau says in the clip.
“No, I just need Hadeed,” Bruce replies. He then slaps the hanging penguins plushie with a stick, spooking the horse.
The horse was from a friend of Joe’s who is a horse trainer. “They rolled it up in a big trailer and brought it inside,” Johnson said.
“I thought I was going to work with a little pony, a Shetland pony or something,” Boudreau remembered. “This was a freaking Secretariat that they brought in the house. We were sure that its hooves were going to do real good damage to the house or it was going to do something in the house, and he didn’t do anything, so that was good.”
I probed what that something was.
“Horse dung,” Boudreau said. “But there was no dung that I remember, or my mind has not allowed me to remember.”
There was a smell though.
“It ate its body weight in Doritos off the floor and came super close to a hazmat situation,” Johnson said. “Like they say, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and Joe was catching a lot of smoke standing behind that horse waiting for his cue.”
“It was very nearly a major carpet disaster, but we wrapped the horse in the nick of time,” Hadeed added.
While the horse was trained, there were times where it went off script as well.
“If you could have seen the outtakes where the horse chased Bruce off camera, it was hysterical. We died laughing,” Hadeed said.
Bruce’s Connection With Fans
Since 2005, the Capitals have hired eight different coaches. Those names include Glen Hanlon, Dale Hunter, Adam Oates, Barry Trotz, Todd Reirden, and Peter Laviolette. Only one of those bench bosses remains in the area and still has a powerful connection with the community: Boudreau.
“In honesty, I think it’s because I’m myself,” Boudreau said. “I’m more of the common man. You can look at other coaches or other personalities and they either come off as real or putting on an act. I think I resonate with the common person. I said it like it was and I was as truthful as I could be.”
In a league where every player or coach’s response feels canned and scripted, Boudreau has gone against the grain and allowed people to make a real connection to him. Sometimes, he suggested, it was to his own detriment, making some feel uncomfortable with the unintentional relationship he builds within communities.
“I think the whole thing is when you’ve been sent down as a player and cut on teams so much, no matter how good you do, you’re going to have that self-deprecation because you’ve had failure so many times,” Boudreau said. “To find success you’re still sort of leery about it. Yeah, it’s great, I’m grateful, and that’s where humility comes in. Then you have success but I’m always worried about the shoe being about to drop. I think that’s one of the reasons while I’ve been a coach that coaches and managers look at me a little differently and are a little worried about taking a chance, because I’ve become popular with the players and the team and they almost mistake that for a weakness.”
While Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis inspired creative coverage of the team through the media and Alex Ovechkin wowed fans with his play and personality, Boudreau played a big role in the Rock The Red era too, sharing his insecurities, emotions, and stories (that filled up a literal book). He never shied away from a photo or an autograph. He was approachable.
“I think it all coincides with the Caps going from last to first,” Boudreau said of his popularity. “They were last for seven years and then all of a sudden they sold all of their popular players off, and now all of a sudden they became popular again. I think my personality was sort of reminiscent of the team’s personality at that point and time. They were young, we had the best celebrations going, we were just an emotional group. And maybe that hurt us when it came to the playoffs, I don’t know, but I think it was something that was very real and people grew to it, towards it.”
Boudreau’s last coaching gig was with the Vancouver Canucks. Hockey insiders reported that the team was planning to move on from him, leaving him in the unenviable position of coaching while waiting to be fired. When Boudreau’s final game came, he was serenaded with a thunderously loud Bruce, there it is! chant at the end of the game, moving him to tears. During his final press conference, he handled the awful situation with humility, honesty, and, of course, sarcasm.
“It’s probably been the way I’ve been my whole life,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think I changed at all, whatever level I was at I just kept being me. It was the same way when I played, the same way growing up when I was either the best player or worst player on the team, it was just my personality. In school for example, I got along with, for sense of better or worse, I got along with everybody. The athletes, the non-athletes, the school nerds, and everybody. I was always in all of the groups. I just could get in there with them and be myself and they would appreciate it.”
Boudreau purchased a place in Hershey — he plans to ultimately retire there — and now owns the Hershey Cubs, a junior team in the United States Premier Hockey League. Since then he’s contributed nationally to the NHL Network and given analysis on NBC Sports Washington (now Monumental Sports Network).
“It’s the area we love most of all,” Boudreau said. “When we decided, Where are we going to live forever hopefully we would be moving around coaching in different spots and doing what we do in different spots, but that was the spot that we wanted to come back to. Where we had the most friends, where we love the area, and it seemed to be the best of both worlds. You get a fall, you get a winter but it’s not really hard, you get a lot of great weather in the summer and the people are just so great.”
Recently, during the Hershey Bears’ Calder Cup championship run, I watched Boudreau walk into Giant Center and be surrounded by star-struck fans, asking to take photos with him. He obliged.
The most notable thing I noticed: Boudreau didn’t sit up in a suite or hide away from people up on media row. He sat in the lower bowl with fans to watch the games.
Boudreau can be seen cheering after Garrett Pilon’s Game Five OTGWG in the 2023 Calder Cup Finals. (Photo: Tori Hartman/Hershey Bears)
The best part of the Hadeed commercials
The Hadeed commercials are aired locally. And Bruce would probably agree that he’s not going to win an Emmy for his performance. But there is a deep sense of pride and a seriousness with the finished product – no matter how unserious the scripts are. It’s because Bruce finally has a chance — in wrestling parlance — to put his wife over and make her the star.
Both Hadeed ads have presented Bruce as silly, impulsive, and careless while Crystal is responsible and the leader of the household. Like everything Boudreau does, there’s a truth in that.
“We’re a team and when Crystal can get a chance to get into the commercials, I’m more pumped up for her to be exposed,” Bruce said. “She’s the strength behind everything. She does it all for me. So to give her a little bit of press or exposure, I think it’s great. She’s earned it, she’s deserved it. If people knew how much she did not only for my career but for the Cubs and all the endeavors we’ve done, they would know what I mean.”
In the end, that was the best part.
“It means a lot,” Bruce said.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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