Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau speaks to defenseman Cam Fowler during a game… (Carlos Osorio / Associated…)
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau arrived home from an eight-game trip at 3 a.m. Friday, but he had already been at work for a few hours by noon, sharing a conversation about Monday's NHL trade deadline with the team's general manager.
The Ducks, once thought to be trade-deadline sellers when they were a staggering 20 points behind the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, are now players in the market, just six points behind eighth after Sunday's 3-1 victory against Chicago.
Boudreau, the energetic hockey lifer who came to the lifeless Ducks days after being fired by Washington, has directed a 20-12-6 run since taking over, with the team possessing the NHL's best record since Jan. 1.
With the trade deadline here, this is where your 30-plus years in the game with so many contacts can help, right?
"I can telephone anyone. I know background checks on players. I know everybody. It's important to keep in touch. My wife and I send out 250 Christmas cards a year to our friends in the game. It's expensive, but I take great joy in sitting down and writing a little note to my friends. If you gave me any organization, I pretty much could look through it and be able to say there are people I can say I either played with, coached or know him pretty well."
A big part of your people skills is just engaging your players in daily conversation. What do you get from that?
"Trust. We can be talking about a movie they just saw, but if they can see that I care about that … trust is important. And when we need to talk about something important, trust is there. This is about our hopes and dreams. I've been doing this my whole life and I've learned if your dreams aren't high enough and if you don't think of winning the Cup, you're not giving yourself a chance. If you don't shoot for the moon, you sell yourself short. I haven't won the Cup yet, but it's something I dream of every day. I see that Cup hoisted by someone else every year for the last 30 years. I sit there and cry watching that. There's nothing better, nothing more fun than winning. It's why I couldn't wait to go to work today."
What have you done to make this team win?
"It's a different voice and personality. It was that time: We better get our [rear] in gear. The players are such quality people. If I've done anything, it's instill some confidence in them. Our coaching staff is such positive people. There haven't been a lot of changes system-wise. I will say our goaltending has been very good, and when your goaltending's good, good things happen."
When you appeared on HBO's Winter Classic "24/7," you didn't hesitate to swear. You need to incorporate street talk at times in life, right?
"I didn't realize I swore that much. When I was mad, I asked them [the film crew] to leave, but they didn't. I didn't realize I used all those … bombs. The reason I use that word is that it's an emphasis word. When you watch a movie and it happens, there's an emphasis on it; the point that's being made has more impact instead of saying, 'Doggone it.' I don't rant and rave every day, but you have that move if necessary and it has some impact."
You're the same guy who's succeeding here, I assume. Why did you get fired by Washington?
"I don't know what happened. The expectations were so high and I was a big part of setting that bar. As much as you get ticked off about what you helped build from 6,000 people in the building to sellouts and a waiting line for tickets — wanting to see that to fruition — it happened. When there was a little glitch, I think they panicked and did it too soon. Good thing this came along sooner than expected."
You spent six years in the Kings' organization in Lowell (Mass.) and Manchester (N.H.). Did you ever think you would ascend to become their head coach?
"No, it never really dawned on me, because [then-coach] Andy Murray was a good friend and I always viewed myself as his understudy. Maybe because it was my first American [Hockey] League job, I felt, 'I pay my dues here.' We were one big family. That's all changed now. You can see the intensity when we play them. It might not be eight guys dropping their gloves, but the hitting, the attitude, the intensity of beating those guys. As happy as everyone in the organization is about how we're doing, they're just as happy the Kings are losing."
Embracing the rivalry, huh?
"One of my good friends from the Kings is a big pro wrestling guy. Wrestling is so good at marketing, who the good and bad guys are. They get the crowds crazy. I like doing that stuff. When I was in the East Coast League, they sent me to coach in Biloxi, Miss., where I wasn't even sure they had seen ice. Before I knew what I was getting into, I asked the guys in that organization, 'OK, what state don't we like?' They told me Louisiana, so at my first press conference I got up there and said, 'We're going to kick the [rears] of all Louisiana ice skaters. The coach there and I were friends. We'd get on the phone and tell each other, 'Hey, I'm going to say some real nasty [stuff] about you.' He'd do the same, and we'd get 8,200 people to our games and 10,000 in Louisiana. I can't do as much of that stuff here. This is a little more professional."