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When Brian Boucher was in Goal, the Puck Stopped Here

BY DON SCOTT

Brian Boucher played 13 seasons in the NHL, retiring in 2013 to become a color commentator and studio analyst for the Philadelphia Flyers‘ regional telecasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with host Al Morganti. Boucher also worked on some of the team’s regional television broadcasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

In recent years, he has become the number-one analyst for NBC’s televised games.

In 1995, the Flyers made Boucher their top draft pick, after he 131 games in the WHL, and assigned him to the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL, where he helped backstop them to the 1998 Calder Cup.

His two seasons there brought him to Hershey several times, where he had the opportunity to play in Hersheypark Arena, then later in the new Giant Center.

“The old arena had a unique feel to it because the fans seemed to be closer, louder and heckled you relentlessly ,while the Giant Center had all the amenities of a bigger locker room, nicer showers and more space, but it lacked character and history,” said Boucher. “Now every building is nicer, regardless of whether you’re in the NHL or AHL.”

In 1999, he made his first of four stops with the Flyers, while playing in the NHL a total of 328 games with Phoenix, San Antonio, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, San Jose and Carolina. Boucher finished his career with a 120-139-30-15 overall record.

The 2012-13 season, his final one in North America, saw Boucher play four games for the Flyers and 16 for the Phantoms.

“I made my last AHL stop in Glens Falls, because the Flyers had their team there prior to moving to Lehigh Valley, where they are now,” said Boucher. “During the lockout, I was traded to Carolina and then back to Philly who put me in Glens Falls. The next season I was in the Swiss League for two-and-a-half months, then they signed a Finnish goalie, bought me out and that ended my career.”

In ‘Boosh’s’ 2003-04 season with Phoenix, he set the modern day NHL record of five consecutive shutouts, covering 332.01 minutes of game time.

“I was a third string goalie at the start of the season and hadn’t practiced with the team for about 40 days, working with the goalie coach and really wasn’t allowed to practice with the team, so I was really frustrated,” said Boucher. “There was a lack of communication between management and myself, so I was quite bitter to be honest. Zac Bierk was injured and that allowed me to start practicing, with the team and eventually got into a game after Christmas, got the first shutout and it just continued.

“There was a huge chip on my shoulder at that point and I really just wanted to show everyone that I didn’t approve of how they thought about me,” continued Boucher. “It was just magic for those games. I got every break and the puck looked like a beach ball. Guys started to get nervous once we got close to record territory and didn’t want to make a mistake, and were so dialed in. I also think they felt bad for me because of the way I was treated earlier.”

While doing this season’s five overtime Stanley Cup game between Columbus and Tampa Bay on television, he said he thought back to the five overtime tilt he played in against Pittsburgh. 

“It was a grind because I was standing the whole time,” Boucher said, with a laugh. “There is no way you can prepare for eight periods of hockey so I had to adapt and find a way to keep going. Between periods the network would go to the studio so I did get about 12 minutes, but the turnaround time in the playoffs is pretty quick.”

What a lot of fans don’t know is that as a kid, Boucher was actually preparing to do what he is doing now, in addition to hoping to make the NHL as a goalie.

“I’d watch games and dreamed of playing in the NHL, but always envisioned when I was done playing I’d get into broadcasting and visualized it and set a path to do it,” Boucher said. “When I retired, a lot of people told me I should get into the media side of the game, so I thought I’d give it a shot and Philly gave me that opportunity.”

When you watch Boucher on TV explaining what has just happened on the ice, he keeps it simple and informative, because he has done his homework on each team days in advance.

“Prior to doing games, whether they are regular or playoff games, I try to watch the teams involved ahead of time to get a feeling for what they do,” Boucher said. “If I’m doing a game Wednesday, I try and watch their two prior games for each team. I watch hockey every day because that’s my job. That’s all part of the preparation, but the other part is knowing what their trends are in recent games and making it interesting for the fans who watch.”

As close as he has been to Mike Emrick over the past several years, ‘Boosh’ said he had no advance notice that the long-time voice of hockey planned to retire.

“We all knew that day would come sometime and it would be talked about, but we didn’t want to know the answer,” Boucher said. “I loved being around him because he was just great doing play-by-play and was a historian of the game, in addition to being one of the nicest people you could ever meet. These last two years working with him have been magical. It was just a dream come true.”

Although the regular season ended early and the playoffs had a late start, Boucher still worked 60 playoff games and 31 regular season ones, until the shutdown in March.

“It was a blast and I don’t care what the players say, and I know there have been some negative articles, but my experience was awesome,” said Boucher. “I was doing two or three games in a day, go for a bite to eat and a beverage of choice at some point ,and get up the next day and do it all again. Considering what was going on in society, it was great to get away from everything. I wasn’t watching the news or keeping track of the virus, because my job made me focus on that so it was a nice change of pace.”

If you wonder if he has any thoughts about doing play-by-play his reply was an emphatic, ”I have no plans or desire to do that because that’s a special and unique talent that I do not have. My job is to analyze what I see and use my playing experience to do my job.”

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