People and Places

Always on the mind — Sens’ new coach, Guy Boucher, speaks candidly for first time about life on/off the rink

When people talk about new Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher they mention his coaching record, his passion, and fierce approach to the game. But little is known about the man himself.

Admittedly private, Boucher recently shared his thoughts about life away from the rink — far away. Almost as far as Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec.

Every summer Boucher, his wife Marsha, and their three children, Vincent, 14, twin girls Mila and Naomi, 12, head to the family cottage near Notre-Dame-du-Lac, Quebec. The cottage is Boucher’s sanctuary. Built by his father, it is the one place the 44-year-old is truly able to escape. With no electricity — everything runs on propane — life is simple and family comes first.

Boucher admits he only checks his phone every few days and will only answer his most urgent messages.

“Good luck finding me in the summer. I don’t golf. I’m on the lake fishing. I’m in the woods with the family and it’s difficult to find me. This is the time when I’m all there with the family; they deserve it.

“Sometimes during the [hockey] season your family thinks they’re going to get time with you and then you’re on the phone and it’s longer than you thought or something unexpected happens. You never get your weekends; you never get your evenings. You get pockets here and there. That’s why the summers aren’t only good — they’re necessary.”

Like many, Boucher can’t help but bring work home. Early in his career he admits it was difficult to let things go and leave the game at the rink. With experience, he’s learned to balance things better, but admits that during the season his team and the game are always on his mind.

“This is an everyday business and even on your day off you’re thinking about the next day. What people see is not even five percent of our job; the 95 percent is everything else that you do during your day and your evenings,” said Boucher. “It takes a toll on you. I don’t know of any coach — no matter how much experience they have — that finishes their year feeling fresh. It [the hockey season] wears you down.”

As he gets older, Boucher admits the challenges of coaching also change.

“You’ve got to connect with players. You’ve got to find what really motivates them and I think that’s the key to coaching and it’s the key to parenthood because it is different than when I was young.”

From a young age Boucher was encouraged to always strive for greatness and as such he embraces a good challenge.

“My father left a really strong impression on me. He always told me that in sports you’re in the business of doing the impossible.”

Sadly, Wilfrid Boucher was taken from his family much too young due to bone cancer. Boucher was 17 when his father died, but his lessons resonated.

In many ways they are the same lessons he is trying to pass down to his own children.

Boucher and his wife have always embraced new challenges and want their children to have the confidence to do the same.

“We like to try, we like to dare and we don’t care if we fail. If we do, we get back up and go again. Our kids have seen that, and I think they will benefit from it. If there’s one thing I want for my kids, it is to be able to put themselves out there and be resilient. Don’t be afraid to fail. The more you fail, the more success you’re going to get. The more you’re afraid to fail, the less you’re going to try, the less you’re going to do and you’re going to limit yourself.”

It was that mindset that allowed Boucher to move to Switzerland after being fired from the Tampa Bay Lightning and remain confident that he would one day return to the NHL.

Boucher realized moving halfway across the world might not be the best way to stay front and centre in the coaching fraternity, but at the time it was the best thing for his family.

“It’s always about you when you’re a hockey coach. Everything goes into your job. My wife, Marsha, had given up everything for my dreams, so at some point it was time to give back. In the end, it was good because I saw something different, but that wasn’t the reason we went. It was for the family, to be at home with the kids. That’s the side people don’t see. It looks all nice on TV and it’s a great experience and I’m so fortunate to be in the NHL again, but the other side is the wives are on their own a lot of the time. My wife was terrific having to deal with that for many years.”

Boucher can’t say enough about being in Ottawa. His family wanted to return to Canada, but also be closer to relatives in Montreal.

“My kids never really knew what was home,” admitted Boucher. “They’ve moved around so much since they were little, but you could see they had a craving. It means a lot to come back to Canada, so this [new opportunity] is the perfect thing at the perfect time for the right reasons.”

Boucher is clearly excited about his new position with the Senators. With the passion and determination he has for the game, it’s hard to believe he once ever questioned whether coaching was going to be a career. But he did.

Boucher initially began coaching as a way to remain in the game once he realized his own playing days were over, but it took a few years behind the bench to realize he could make a career of coaching.

“I had a really, really special relationship with Pat Quinn and we won the gold in Russia with the Under 18s. Pat was a big name and he told me, ‘You have a future in this business.’ He said, ‘You’ve got nothing to envy from the guys I worked with.’ — That was the moment. It caught me by surprise. Before that I was just enjoying what I did.

“The first time I sat in my new office in Ottawa, I felt right at home… I remembered that the last time I was in this office Pat [Quinn] was sitting in my chair. We were celebrating winning the gold medal for Canada at the World Juniors together in 2009. Once again, I was reminded that we are the product of the people we meet in our lives.”

Boucher has big plans for the Ottawa Senators and can’t wait to get back behind an NHL bench. For now, Boucher will be with his family, simply enjoying being lost in the woods.