Sin Bin correspondent, Ted Warren sat down with Norfolk Admirals Assistant Coach Ben Boudreau during training camp so fans could get to know the new face behind the Admirals bench.
This in-depth Q & A will give you a glance into Boudreau’s duties as Assistant Coach, the fan support in Norfolk, the relationship he has with his Dad, Bruce, and much more.
S.B.: After your playing days were over, what made you start coaching at the pro level?
B.B.: It was more or less finding a way to stay involved in hockey. I started coaching after I stopped playing and it developed another passion in me to start playing again. So after my first year coaching, I went back to playing in Europe. It was a great experience and I would have continued to play if it wasn’t for a great opportunity to coach out west in western Canada. I knew that I wanted to be involved in hockey for a little bit more than seven months at a time which is the playing season. It really intrigued me what the off-season was all about and how to recruit, develop players, and network. So when I saw a coaching opportunity in western Canada I took it. Like in any career, you always want to advance and get to that next level so when I saw an opportunity with the Condors, with their Assistant Coach position available, I submitted a resume and made a few phone calls and I was lucky enough to get it.
S.B.: Where did you coach in western Canada?
B.B: It was a private academy and it was Junior B. So yes, Juniors, but it was through a school very compatible to Shattuck-St. Mary’s. It was in Penticton, B.C. and it was called the Okanagan Hockey Academy and I started there when I was 26.
S.B.: Last year you got your feet wet in the ECHL. Coaching-wise what did you learn from your first season?
B.B.: I was given a pretty lengthy leash to make some decisions; whether they were good or bad I figured that out. I think one of the biggest things is being so closely removed from my playing days. It was tough to separate friends from players and sometimes demanding that respect. On the likewise instead of coaching personalities you have to coach the player. Sometimes if you like the guy off ice, at the beginning of the year you have a soft spot for him. If he’s not playing well you give him the benefit of the doubt and later on in the year those are some of the transitions I made. You’ve got to put your friends aside and do what’s best for the club and the team. If there are some tough decisions to make about sitting a guy or playing a guy and that’s what I had to do.
S.B.: What were some of your responsibilities last year in Bakersfield?
B.B.: One of the primary responsibilities was video: cutting it up and working with guys one-on-one. It was a great learning experience for me. I went to school for video technology and film and it was right up my alley. Being able to talk to the guys and relate to the guys was a big thing for me. I’m able to bring a guy into my office one-on-one. Then as an Assistant Coach you’re usually in charge of the defense, which I was, so I got to make the decision of who to play and when to play them. Those were my primary responsibilities.
S.B.: So will those responsibilities carry on into Norfolk this year?
B.B.: One of the great things about this organization is that I was allowed to take on a little bit more responsibility. So this year with Eric I’m primarily responsible for the Penalty Kill. With Eric I’ll be coaching the defense as well. So that’s a big area of mine so I hope we excel at it. Obviously that’s our plan this year. Off ice on the administration side there were some good people in Bakersfield that took care of it. This year I was charged to do all the immigration for the players. Kind of being the go to connection guy. If they needed something I would be the first phone call and we would go from there.
S.B.: Hockey has a lot of ups and downs. How can you keep guys on an even keel and not let them get too high or too low.
B.B.: Honestly, it’s about balance and there’s all different kind of tricks. There should be no negativity coming from the Assistant Coach. It’s up to the Head Coach to scold the players. If they’re low you try to boost their tires, say whatever you can to take their mind off of something that may not be working. If they’re getting too high, you try to bring them back down to earth and let them know that there is another game to be played. You find ways to keep everyone at an even keel.
S.B.: What can you tell fans about the players that were in Bakersfield last year who are here in Norfolk this year?
B.B.: We have some great guys and great competition. It’s a little bit easier to coaching them when you know what their tendencies are. Never having coached Ben Betker, Mathieu Brisebois, Tim Daly and Charles-Olivier Roussel I’ve got to learn what their habits are, their tendencies, and coach their deficiencies. With guys from Bakersfield that we saw for 72 games last year, we already know what they’re used to doing. We’re going to catch it right away if something is different instead of having to learn and study what their habits are. So right away I think that’s a big advantage, knowing the player on the ice as well as off the ice. We have to do a good job getting to know those things right away with the new guys.
S.B.: Thoughts on the Norfolk area, what do you like?
B.B.: I came in August so was able to see some of the area. I have a girlfriend up in Canada who just moved down here last night. I don’t know if I want to say I’ve been saving some of the exploration, but living in the desert last year it’s great to be near a body of water. I also enjoy the east coast because it’s closer to family and a lot more familiar. No matter what anyone has ever said the Admirals have always had a great fan base and support. We’re here for hockey. We’ve heard great things about the area and great graduating players and coaches. I’m pretty excited to find out what the area is all about as we go along.
S.B.: I can’t do this interview without asking about your Dad, Bruce Boudreau. What influence has he had on your coaching career?
B.B.: We speak almost daily. We might be watching the same game three hours apart on the coast, but if there are little things in the game I know he’s watching I’ll talk to him about it. He’s obviously in the position from a lot of success in his hockey career. I would consider it an absolute blessing if I had even half the success he had in his coaching career. As a father-role it’s great to bring us together to have something in common like that to talk about. Even as a coach it’s great to have someone that close to ask those questions. If there is something I don’t know I know he’s only a phone call away. I think becoming a coach and my role has brought us a lot close together.
S.B.: Speaking of family, are you all scattered around the U.S. and Canada?
B.B.: Now I would consider us almost all on the east coast. I have a 17-year-old brother playing hockey in Maryland. I have a 28-year-old brother who is trying to become a cop in Ontario. A 33-year-old sister and I now have a one-year-old niece who live in Ottawa. My Mom lives in Ontario and my Dad in California. I think we have 20 something cousins on my Mom’s side and they’re absolutely everywhere, but predominantly on the east coast. That’s the way I prefer it too, a little bit closer to home. The last four or five years I haven’t been on the east coast. I spent three years on the west coast and one year in Europe.
S.B.: I read an article about you jumping out of a plane for film school when you were in college. Is film making something you would like to do once hockey is over?
B.B.: I hope hockey is never over. I want to do that as long as I can. It’s always been my number one passion growing up in a hockey family. When I was done with my junior career, I was an average hockey player. I obviously needed to find education first, which a lot of people would recommend. I didn’t know what to go to school for, but I knew what my hobbies were and I always loved making videos. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I did it to pursue a career, but I did it to pursue an interest. That was a three-year college program and I had an unbelievable time where I was and I met my current girlfriend there. My second year we did a documentary on skydiving and it was pretty crazy. They strapped a camera to our head and boom out the plane we went.
S.B.: What has the fan reaction been like since you arrived? I know you’ve had a team function at a bank with a local radio station.
B.B.: I didn’t know what to expect because the Admirals had great fan support. They are some great passionate fans that know a lot about the game and I was surprised that people were bringing up things about me personally. That surprised me because I would never have thought anybody would even know who I was before being here. I think that just goes to show what the fans here are all about. They want to get to know their players and their coaches. They care about the sport and the team so that’s a pretty big thing. That’s important to us and I think it’s a great benefit. You would rather play in a building with lots of fans and people who care about the team, rather than critics. I’ve been really surprised about the support the team has received so far. Even the Booster Club seems to be great people. We obviously hope we can give back and provide some wins for them.
Given his hockey background, Boudreau is a perfect fit for the assistant job in Norfolk.