This is another in a series on celebrity authors.
Bruce Boudreau played professional hockey for 20 years, then coached for 18 years (and counting). Boudreau has been called everything including a hockey-lifer, an everyman, a Cinderella story and old school. He is also a straight-shooter, which is evident in his book Gabby:Confessions of a Hockey Lifer.
Despite a winning percentage of nearly 60%, it took almost 18 years for Boudreau to get a shot at coaching in the NHL and that was with the then-lowly Washington Capitals. Without complaining, Boudreau does question why it took so long for him to get an NHL coaching shot. However, he also speaks of the lessons he learned and the determination he had.
It took Boudreau a long time to become an NHL coach, but it didn't take him long to earn top coaching honors. After taking over for Glen Hanlon early in the 2007-08 season, he was awarded the Jack Adams award for being the coach who contributed the most to his team's success (after leading the Caps to a 37-17 record).
It was after that '07-'08 season that Harrisburg Patriot-News writer Tim Leone approached Boudreau about doing a book. Boudreau agreed and the two began working.
I asked Leone what made Gabby different. Leone stated that, "It's extremely honest. Bruce is more honest in public than most of us are in private."
I have to agree with this. One great story told is when Boudreau was not recognized by NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka at a charity event. Though Boudreau felt "pretty small", he went up to shake Ditka's hand. Boudreau admits to being "a bit starstruck" by the big names at the event, such as Ditka, Johnny Unitas and Mike Bossy. Hmm even a pro hockey coach gets starstruck?
Another bit of refreshing honesty is when Boudreau admits that he doesn't have 'the look' of an NHL coach. He isn't slick and well-dressed. He is comfortable with himself, though and that is a great lesson for all of us.
Leone said that the most fun part was, "...listening to a lot of fun stories and hammering them into a narrative. But there's also a profound undercurrent about perseverance."
If writing about the stories was fun, so is reading them. Boudreau has experienced so much and with so many people.
Boudreau discusses coaching the great players, like Alexander Ovechkin and Sergei Federov. He talks about getting his name on the Calder Cup trophy and winning the Jack Adams trophy. He tells tales about fellow coaches like John Anderson and Barry Melrose.
Boudreau also peppers in some coaching strategies and philosophies. I found these extremely interesting, as Boudreau is able to explain some confusing concepts in some very clear ways. These coaching nuggets were some of my favorite parts of Gabby.
Another great aspect of Gabby is how Boudreau reveals parts of his philosophy throughout the book. While discussing a big game between his Caps and the Carolina Hurricanes, Boudreau talked about how he loved these situations, because they were a great way to test yourself. He even quoted Ric Flair's catchphrase "To be the man, you gotta beat the man" as part of his attitude about facing the best.
The book seemed to have so many parts and cover so many years, yet it all flowed very well. Leone said he did about 60 hours of interviews with Boudreau. That's the easier part. Putting it all together into a very enjoyable read is the hard part. Leone accomplished both parts with great success.
Leone's years of covering the Hershey Bears and following hockey in general certainly make him an expert. It's clear he knows the sport and loves it. Previous to Gabby, Leone wrote The Hershey Bears:Sweet Seasons, which covers the oldest and most celebrated franchise in the history of the American Hockey League. Truly excellent hockey books are a rarity and Leone has written two of them.
I want to thank Tim Leone for his assistance in writing this piece. As a lifelong hockey fan, I also appreciate his work and dedication to the game. Lastly, I want to thank Leone and Boudreau for producing a great hockey bio.