Depending on what time of day you are reading this, Bruce Boudreau may have started and finished his Christmas shopping by now.
“I never do it until between 3 and 4 o’clock on the 24th anyway,” the new head coach of the Anaheim Ducks said with a laugh.
That is just about the only thing that remained normal for Boudreau over the last month. He says yes, sometimes he still feels breathless, less than three weeks after he became the NHL coach to set a record for the shortest period of unemployment – six days from his last game with the Washington Capitals to his first game with the Ducks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“There’s been times when you think that,” Boudreau said. “I catch myself in meetings when I talk about Anaheim and call them ‘you guys’ and refer to Washington as ‘when we were doing this.’
“The turnaround is so quick you didn’t have time to draw a deep breath. But I’m not complaining about it.”
How could he? Boudreau, 56, spent 15 years coaching in the minor leagues, watching lots of other head coaches get the call to the NHL before he got one himself at 52 from Capitals general manager George McPhee. Then it was taken away, and while he was still in shock, he was back in the show again.
“Me and my wife really didn’t talk about it too much,” Boudreau said. “We didn’t put too much thought in it other than, ‘Oh yeah, an NHL coaching job. Do it.’ So I jumped on a plane.”
Starting Friday, the morning after the Ducks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings to leave Boudreau with a 2-6-2 record with his new team, which is still better than unemployment, even highly paid unemployment, Boudreau will get some time to relax. His wife Crystal and their 13-year-old son Brady, the youngest of Boudreau’s four children, planned to fly to Anaheim for a family Christmas before Boudreau goes back to work on Boxing Day to face the Sharks in San Jose.
Given that there were officially six days between Boudreau’s coaching gigs, it might appear it wasn’t quite “the whirlwind,” as he calls it. But the actual turnaround was much shorter.
Boudreau was fired by 7 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, and he can tell you to the minute when he knew the jig was up. Until then, Boudreau brushed aside talk of his firing because the Capitals were among the best teams in the Eastern Conference until a precipitous fall in the previous three weeks.
“I can tell you the exact time was 6:09 a.m. I was driving to work,” Boudreau said. “I always have my phone beside me. You know how you get the buzz for a text? I said, ‘Who would be texting me at this hour in the morning?’
“It was George [McPhee] He said call me when you wake up. I knew right then what was happening.”
Boudreau made the call and McPhee asked him to come to his house. Since Boudreau lived nearby he was there in five minutes. Then he was out of a job and back at his house, sitting “dumbfounded” on his couch. His phone alternated between buzzing and ringing. Boudreau ignored it.
“I wasn’t getting off the couch,” he said. “I didn’t want to answer anything. I didn’t feel like being the nice, talkative guy.”
But six hours later, at 1 p.m., Boudreau saw McPhee’s name come up on his phone when it rang so he answered it. After asking how he was doing, McPhee “asked if I wanted to coach in the NHL again this year. I thought, oh geez, he’s had second thoughts. He said no, an NHL GM, who he wouldn’t name, had called and asked for permission to speak to me.”
By that night or early the next morning – Boudreau isn’t sure of the timing – Ducks GM Bob Murray called. He offered the job after a brief conversation.
“I went, ‘Whoa,’ ” Boudreau said. “So I said yes, obviously. This is what we do, we want to work, especially when you get fired. You want to work as quick as you can.
“I do, anyway. You want to get in that I’ll show you I can get a job, you did the wrong thing [frame of mind]”