Related Content: Boucher Conference Call (audio) 56K
(Philadelphia, PA, July 31) – At the conclusion of the 2006-07 NHL season, goaltender Brian Boucher realized his career was at a crossroads.
“From a personal standpoint, I think my career in the last couple of years has been disappointing [from] the year of the lockout all the way up through the last two years,” he said on Tuesday during a conference call with local reporters. “It’s just gone absolutely the opposite of what I expected.”
Boucher was drafted by the Flyers in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. After a couple of solid seasons with their AHL affiliate, the Phantoms, Boucher was recalled to the Flyers and quickly made a name for himself during the 1999-2000 season, leading the team to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
|Brian Boucher helped lead the Flyers to the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. (Getty Images) |
Just when it looked like Boucher had established himself as the goaltender of the future, however, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-native was never able to lead the team past the first round of the playoffs after that brilliant run. He was traded to Phoenix after the 2001-02 season came to an end, and has since spent time in Calgary, Chicago and Columbus, where he finished up the 2006-07 season. He also had a brief, six-game stint with San Antonio (AHL) in 2005-06.
Now, he appears to be back where he started with the Phantoms after signing an AHL contract on July 23. Despite the apparent step back in his career, Boucher is determined to make things right and get back to the NHL.
“I think once you have been in the NHL for some years, you look at yourself as an NHL guy. But you know what, this is the way it goes,” said Boucher. “For me, I need to play. There is a lack of jobs out there right now. I think a lot of the guys that were backups in the NHL signed extensions halfway through the year last year so there was only three or four teams available and those got snagged up pretty quickly. So, that leaves me where I was before, which was either Europe, or recognize the fact that I need to go back to the minors and work my way back, which I don’t have a problem doing.
“I’ve been fortunate having played in the NHL. I want to get back there, but I need to play games if I am going to do that.”
Boucher should have the opportunity to do that with the Phantoms, while at the same time serving as an emergency third-string goaltender for the Flyers behind Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki. With the injuries to goaltenders Niittymaki and, prior to that, Robert Esche, having a third goaltender in the system with as much professional experience as Boucher could prove to be valuable down the line. Niittymaki is recovering from a torn labrum in his hip that was repaired earlier this summer.
While it appears to be yet another shrewd move by General Manager Paul Holmgren, it was in fact Boucher himself that initiated the contact.
“My agent had talked to Paul Holmgren, and had an initial phone call with him just to see if they had any interest. He said there was some interest, but I felt that you have to be aggressive a little bit and you can’t wait for something to come to you. So, I decided to give Paul a call myself. I just wanted to express my want to be there,” said Boucher.
“In this case, Homer was really gracious in welcoming me back.”
Now 30 years of age with two children, Boucher is happy to get a chance back in the place that his career began and where he learned what life is like as a professional hockey player.
“I had a list of teams that I wanted to go to, and if it was going to be in the minors I was going to make Philly my first choice,” said Boucher. “I am thankful that they had a spot for me, that they wanted me and that they saw the position that I was in and what I was willing to do.
“I never thought I’d say it, but I am really happy to be signing a minor league contract, especially in Philadelphia. The people are so passionate and everything is first class there. It’s a place that I knew if I could ever get back there I’d be really thankful. I know it’s not in the capacity that I wished for initially, but like I said, I am really thankful that I get the chance to play and be in a place that I really want to be in.”