By the Way

Boudreau is back to the wolfpack


Bruce Boudreau, center top, celebrates the 1999 Kelly Cup with his first wolfpack, the Mississippi Sea Wolves.
Bruce Boudreau, center top, celebrates the 1999 Kelly Cup with his first wolfpack, the Mississippi Sea Wolves. Sun Herald/1999

Bruce Boudreau is once again a wolf.

Not a Sea Wolf, as he was when he helped launch the East Coast Hockey League franchise in Biloxi in 1996, but a Minnesota Wild wolf.

The 9-year veteran of the National Hockey League coaching ranks is now with his third team. The Wild announced Boudreau's hire on Saturday and introduced him Tuesday.

Although hockey has not been on the Coast in several years, die-hard Sea Wolves fans have kept up with Boudreau and former Sea Wolves since they left the Mississippi Coast Coliseum ice.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Bruce, covering the Sea Wolves the first two-plus years of the franchise before turning the beat over to Don Hammack. He, in turn, got to cover the Sea Wolves' run to the Kelly Cup title in 1999.

He hasn't been back on Coast ice since 2006, when he and former player and coach Bob Woods dropped in for the Decade in the Den celebration of 10 years of hockey in Biloxi.

But he's been busy. He left Biloxi for the AHL. He coached Lowell before moving over to Hershey, where he won a Calder Cup, then got the call to the NHL and the Washington Capitals on Thanksgiving Day in 2007.

Other than two days between coaching stints in Washington and Anaheim and six between Anaheim and Minnesota, Boudreau's been busy in the NHL.

Bruce and I grew into our new jobs together in Biloxi. He took on the role as head coach and head of hockey operations for the Mississippi Sea Wolves at almost the same time that I became sports editor at the SunHerald.

While both of us have moved on and up in our professions, those first years as ECHL head coach and Sun Herald sports editor gave us both unique perspectives into each other's lives.

In a column I wrote about Bruce leaving the Coast for Lowell and the AHL, I freely admitted that he had become more than a source -- he'd become a friend. I still consider him that.

So much so, in fact, that rather than faithfully follow a team in the NHL, I follow Bruce. As such, I've been a Capitals fan, a Ducks fan, and now a Wild fan.

I confess that since my first NHL team to root for were the Minnesota North Stars, cheering on the Wild will be an easy transition. (I never cheered for the Dallas Stars. The Vikings-Cowboys rivalry in football made sure of that.)

But I look forward to the coming season and seeing Bruce behind the bench of a wolfpack again.