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New Wild coach a 'hockey lifer'

Despite being fired twice in the past five years, new Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has been unemployed for only 10 days in that stretch.When he was dismissed by the Washington Capitals during the 2011-12 season, the Anaheim Ducks scooped h...

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Bruce Boudreau will be introduced today as the Minnesota Wild’s fourth full-time head coach. (2016 file / TNS)

Despite being fired twice in the past five years, new Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has been unemployed for only 10 days in that stretch.
When he was dismissed by the Washington Capitals during the 2011-12 season, the Anaheim Ducks scooped him up two days later. After the Ducks fired him at the end of last month, the Wild signed him eight days later to a four-year contract worth nearly $3 million a year.
Boudreau hasn’t taken a season off since he first put on skates 56 years ago, he said.
So why not take a break? Why, at 61, jump into a Wild role that comes with pressure to make the most of a veteran core that is closer to 40 than 20?
“Well, I’m a hockey lifer. That’s all I do,” Boudreau said via telephone Monday, a day before he will be formally introduced as the franchise’s fourth full-time head coach during a noon news conference.
Boudreau has carried the nickname “Gabby” since he was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1974, a testament to his chatty personality. But that applies exclusively to sports, and mostly to hockey.
“I am a bad conversationalist on any other topic,” Boudreau said with a laugh. “I could talk for hours on this sport and other sports, but when it comes to anything else, I can’t.”
That’s partially why Boudreau chose to coach the Wild rather than take a break from the game.
“I don’t want a break,” he said. “My wife (Crystal) would be the first one to tell you, the worst two years of her life were the two lockouts.”
Boudreau laughed at the memories.
“Wives have routines, too,” he said. “When you’re at home and following them around like a little puppy dog, they’re not getting too happy. So, as long as we don’t have another lockout, I can entertain myself.”
Boudreau was set to fly to Minnesota from his home in Southern California on Monday. During his time here, he is expected to meet with veteran players Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and possibly others. He led the Ducks to the Western Conference finals two seasons ago but Anaheim was ousted in the first round by Nashville in seven games this month.
Boudreau said he wasn’t concerned with the public perception that the Wild’s roster might be difficult to coach, in part because Parise and Suter, the team’s top two players, have contracts (nine years left) likely to outlast that of any coach.
“I don’t want to go in with a preconceived notion that this guy is a tough guy to handle or that guy is a tough guy to handle,” Boudreau said. “I want to bring my personality and brand in and just meet with the players. I think it’ll work out.”
In nine NHL seasons, Boudreau has amassed a 409-192-80 record yielding a .659 percentage, best of any active coach.
“I don’t think my mindset has ever been, ‘Hey, I need to know about these players or I’m not going to take the job.’ I’ve always taken on the challenge whatever it is, at least in my coaching,” he said. “My playing days? Not so much. But coaching, I’ve been able to accept the challenge and use it to my benefit and embrace the challenge and look at what happens if you succeed rather than fear the challenge.”
He described his style as, “a positive communicator.”
In amassing four straight division championships with the Ducks, Boudreau was able to avoid the prolonged midseason slumps that have plagued the Wild in recent seasons, which often forced them to scramble just to make the playoffs.
Boudreau said avoiding those stretches often requires a certain mentality.
“It’s the belief that you’re too good for this to happen,” he said. “Teams are going to lose. This league is a tough league. There are going to be times when you lose two, three, four in a row. But you don’t want that to swell into something where everybody in the stands and on the ice is thinking, ‘Woe is me. Poor us.’ We’ve got to push through and make it better.”
Boudreau agreed to coach the Wild four days after he met with general manager Chuck Fletcher in Southern California.
“Quite frankly, I just thought it was a good fit,” Boudreau said. “I started my career there, and, hopefully, I can end my career there.”

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