Patience is a virtue. Bob Boughner was drafted 32nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1989 Entry Draft and never played a single game with the team. In 1994, he joined the Florida Panthers but again didn’t dress once for them.
It wasn’t till a trade which brought him to Buffalo two seasons later that Boughner began receiving substantial playing time in the pros. Over the years, he would become one of the league’s premiere fighters gathering an exquisite reputation.
Now the head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and (recently named) Canada’s Under-18 Men’s Hockey Team, success has followed him behind the bench thus far. The two-time OHL and CHL Coach of the Year allowed me to ask him a few questions.
You were drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989 but didn’t get your first shot in the NHL until joining Buffalo in 1996. Did that motivate you to work harder during those early years?
Yes, spending four years in the minors and having two shoulder surgeries really taught me to appreciate when I finally got the chance. I didn’t want to go back to the minors and that fear pushed me harder and harder to stay in the NHL.
Despite not having the size that other enforcers may have, you always competed in a fearless manner. What gave you the courage to do this every night?
Again, I wanted to make sure that when I finally got the shot at the NHL I wanted to make the most of it. I didn’t have anybody to blame but myself when I got that chance if I didn’t succeed. I knew early in my career that I needed something that set me apart from most other players. I was a solid player but not a superstar and there were certainly many guys like that around. I had to add an element to my game.
When you fought someone who had a physical advantage against you, what sort of things would you look to do in order to maybe give yourself an edge?
First of all I tried not to fight anybody on their terms, only on mine. Meaning never at end of my shift or when I felt our team didn’t need any fights at that time. I stuck up for teammates and never really was a goon so to speak. I made sure with the bigger and stronger guys that I started quick and changed hands (learned how to throw left) and if I ever got in trouble to stay close.
You are viewed as one of the first faces of the Nashville Predators. Did you feel any pressure joining an expansion team at the time and being depended upon as one of its leaders?
In Nashville, it was a great chance to expand my role. I wore an “A” on my shirt for the first time and played a bigger role. I wanted to show that I could be more than just a fifth or sixth D-man. Really no pressure because a new market (honeymoon period) and expectations were just to work hard and sell the game in the community.
When did you first receive the nickname “Boogieman”?
“Boogieman” came from famous announcer Rick Jeanneret. I was fighting one night and it was a good fight for me and he came up with the phrase: “Ladies and gentlemen put the kids to bed quick, the Boogieman is on the loose tonight”. Pretty funny.
Who would you say was the most underrated player you ever competed with?
Dan Hinote in Colorado; great teammate and hard worker that did all the little things right.
What was your most memorable moment as a hockey player?
Playing my first game in the NHL at Boston.
Is there a player you see in the game today who reminds you a little of yourself in terms of style?
Since taking over as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires, you have done an incredible job turning the team around. Did you ever feel the team could reach this type of success when you first became involved?
I knew I had a lot to learn but knew I was taught from many of the games best when I played. I thought I would have the ability to teach, lead and get the respect from players. Three years was maybe a little fast traced but good things happen when you put the right people in place (players) and teach them to believe in their systems and their talents.
You and the team didn’t seem too worried after losing the first two games of the Memorial Cup. Could you tell me a little bit about the tough start and how you recovered?
We knew that we were still the best team in the tournament and we hadn’t showed it yet. We took it one game at a time. We found different ways to win all year and knew that if we could get to the tie-breaker we could easily get on a roll and be confident.
It goes without saying how much the OHL Championship and Memorial Cup Title meant to the city of Windsor but how important was it to the team?
Very important to the team. I told these kids that they could be the first team in the history of the Memorial Cup to win that way, first team to win in Windsor and be champions for life with 25 of their best friends. They knew this was special for a lot of reasons.
Finally, of your current group of players, who do you have high expectations for in the future?
This year obviously Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis but for the future of Windsor Spitfires, players like Austin Watson, Justin Shugg, Cam Fowler, Jesse Blacker and Steve Gleeson (younger guys) will be the cornerstone for the next couple of years to come.
I want to thank Bob very much for taking the time to speak with me and wish him the best of luck in his coaching with Windsor and Canada’s Under-18 Squad.