2009 Bob Boughner

Bob Boughner
By John Humphrey

Bob Boughner, the two-time Coach of the Year in both the Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League and bench boss of the reigning Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, has a long and proven track record of getting the most out of not only himself, but those fortunate enough to be around him.

Bob Boughner

The 38-year-old Boughner was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario where he played in the Windsor Minor Hockey Association until bantam. After playing Junior C hockey in Belle River and Junior B in Strathroy, Boughner capped a three-year Ontario Hockey League career by captaining the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds to the OHL title and a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament.

Boughner was drafted 32nd overall in the 1989 National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, who also selected Niklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov in that same player lottery. He spent two seasons with the Wings’ American Hockey League team in Adirondack before signing as a free agent with the Florida Panthers. Just as in Detroit, Boughner never played a single game in the NHL for Florida and finally received his big league career break by being traded to the Buffalo Sabres, where he was rewarded with playing a regular shift.

His physical style of play and willingness to drop the gloves whenever needed earned the 6-foot, 205 blueliner the nickname of
‘The Boogieman’. The moniker was bestowed on the rambunctious rearguard by Sabres’ broadcaster Rick Jennerett. Boughner was claimed by the Nashville Predators in the 1998 NHL Expansion Draft and quickly became one of the most recognizable players both on the ice and in the community in Music City. He served as an assistant captain with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000-2001 and wore the ‘C’ for the Calgary Flames in 2001-2002.

He also played for the Carolina Hurricanes before retiring from the Colorado Avalanche in 2006. Boughner also served as the Executive Vice President of the National Hockey League Players’ Association from 2003-2006.

The Boogieman’ was one of the most respected scrappers during his NHL career, and finished with 1382 minutes in penalties in 630 career NHL games. He also notched 15 goals and 57 assists during that time. “I think I had leadership qualities. I liked to be a go-between guy between the coaches and players,” he offers, retrospectively. “I also had a good work ethic and I think I got the most out of what I had talent-wise. “I tried to be a good team guy and always looked after defence first,” continues Boughner.

“The strengths of my game were killing penalties and being physical and setting the tone.” Along with partners Peter Dobrich and Warren Rychel, also a former NHL player, Boughner purchased the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in 2006 and was installed as the floundering team’s head coach, team president and chief executive officer. Although he had no direct experience coaching hockey at any level, Boughner accepted the Spits’ bench boss duties with enthusiasm and vigour.

“I had really become a student of the game during the last two seasons of my playing career in the NHL,” he contends. “I played for a number of outstanding head coaches and I tried to take the best aspects of all of them and combine it into my own coaching philosophy.”

Boughner played for Ted Nolan in Buffalo, Barry Trotz in Nashville, Herb Brooks and Ivan Hlinka in Pittsburgh, Greg Gilbert and Darryl Sutter in Calgary, Paul Maurice and Peter Laviolette in Carolina and Tony Granato and Joel Quenneville in Colorado.

After coaching the Spits to the second-worst record in the OHL during his rookie season in 2006-2007 as his new ownership group rebuilt the team, Boughner guided the Spitfires to their second-best regular season record in club history enroute to winning OHL and CHL Coach of the Year awards for the first time. The Spits’ turnaround season of 2007-2008 came despite the sudden mid-season passing of 18-year-old team captain Mickey Renaud, who collapsed at home and died due to a heart ailment in February of 2008.

“I had never lost someone so young and so close to me before. It was difficult trying to be the leader of a team of young men who were just devastated,” Boughner offers. “I and the other coaches and team management had to try to do the right things for the team, our community and not least of all the families, especially Mark and Jane Renaud.

“There was no manual for us to follow in a situation like that,” he continues. “We just followed our hearts and trusted our instincts.” Under Boughner, the Spitfires finished the 2008-2009 season with a league-best 115 points and won their first OHL championship in 21 years. The Spits followed that up in May of 2009 by becoming the first team ever to win the Memorial Cup championship after dropping the first two games of the tournament. He was again named top coach in the OHL and CHL for his efforts.

Boughner made his international hockey coaching debut in August of 2009 when the Canadian National Under 18 Hockey team won the championship at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. The competition, named after Boughner’s former head coach in Pittsburgh, was held in the Czech Republic.

Bob Boughner lives in Tecumseh, Ontario with his wife Jen and their four children: Brady, Molly, Emma and Lola.