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In Woods, Boudreau Has Kindred Spirit

Hockey lifers Bob Woods and Bruce Boudreau will join forces once again

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

CHICAGO -- Bob Woods' resume reads like lyrics from the Johnny Cash song, "I've Been Everywhere." Name a place in the United States and chances are Woods has played or coached there.

After a junior hockey career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Woods went on to play professionally in Utica, New York, then Johnstown and Hershey, Pennsylvania, before moving on to Portland, Maine. Hampton Roads, Virginia, followed, as did stops in Mobile, Alabama, and another hiatus in Hershey before stops in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sandwiched a season in Tallahassee, Florida. His playing career wrapped up with three seasons in Biloxi, Mississippi, a span he spent as a player-coach.

In 2001-02, Woods transitioned to the bench full-time and hasn't looked back since. But despite his road tour of locales over his career, he's never stopped in Minnesota... until now. 

Woods was named as one of Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau's assistant coaches earlier in the day on Saturday, replacing departed former assistant Scott Stevens and reuniting a pair that has spent years together, one that began with Woods as a player and Boudreau as a coach.

"I've always loved going [to Minnesota] as a visitor, the environment and being around people that really know their hockey," Woods said. "It keeps you on your toes. You're going to have a lot of critics and people that are judging what you do. But I think as coaches, we always want to be in those surroundings, where there [are] expectations and people want to see a winner."

The Boudreau-Woods combo spans many years, beginning in 1998 in Biloxi, when Boudreau was in his third season as head coach of the ECHL's Mississippi Sea Wolves and Woods was a player-assistant coach. The two helped the Sea Wolves to a championship that year, leading to Boudreau's departure to Lowell of the AHL. 

It was hardly the only time their paths would cross.

Like Boudreau, Woods used a stint as Mississippi's head coach to earn a promotion to the AHL -- to be Boudreau's assistant in Hershey.

Woods succeeded Boudreau as head coach of Hershey when the latter was promoted to the parent-club Capitals for his first NHL head coaching job midseason in 2007. He later served as an assistant under Boudreau in previous NHL stops in Washington and Anaheim. 

"We've been together for a lot of years, we've known each other for a lot of years and always had a great working relationship," Woods said. "He's a guy that's helped mold my career and I owe a lot to. To be back with him, in the State of Hockey, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity."

It's hard not to see a lot of Boudreau in Woods, especially when it comes to their hard-scrabble playing careers. 

Boudreau spent nearly 20 years as a player, wracking up hundreds of games in the minor leagues and playing in just 141 NHL contests during that time. 

Woods played 14 years of pro hockey and never once reached the NHL.

Like Boudreau, Woods moved all over the country to continue his dream as a player, making stops in many of the same outposts. Like Boudreau, Woods transitioned to player-coach at the tail end of his career.

"When I hired him to be my player-assistant, his work ethic and knowledge of the game sort of surprised me," Boudreau said. "But it's what made him who he was and I got to trust him an awful lot right from the get-go."

"Bruce was honest," Woods said about playing for Boudreau. "One thing I always loved about him was if he was happy with you, you knew it. If he wasn't happy with you, he'd tell you. I think that's so important, especially in this day and age."

Also like Boudreau, Woods has spent little, if any, time away from the game since he began playing it as a kid, transitioning from youth player to junior player to the pros and, finally, to coach with little in the way of employment gaps.

"In that respect, of spending time in the minors, yeah," Boudreau said. "No matter what level you played at, to keep staying in and when you have a young family and moving town to town like Bob did, [his] determination to get to a higher level was really clear."

Now the duo will try to repeat the successes they've had together. In nine years on the same bench, Boudreau and Woods have either won a championship, the President's Trophy or a division title each time. 

"Every year, we've either been first or won the Cup," Boudreau said. "Starting right off, it's been a pretty good dynamic.

"I won't let him forget what our expectations are and our goals are. It's the same as always where we've been: Good is not good enough."

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