Guy Boucher has been quiet since being released from his head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Lightning last Sunday. Today he addressed the media for the first time at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. He conducted the conference with class, in a style that only he can. I mentioned in the announcement of his firing that it was probably the hardest post I’d ever had to write. I was wrong. This one is.
The atmosphere was solemn, as we waited expectantly unsure of what would be said. Guy Boucher had some notes prepared, thanks and such, then took questions. There was not a lot of media there, as the main writers for the Lighting were either traveling with the team, or stuck in their offices dealing with the trade deadline. We were in a small room used for birthday parties and children’s hockey meetings, the podium plain and dinged up. He deserved a better send off than that.
There were a couple of reasons for waiting until today to speak. He ‘wanted his thoughts to settle down’ and he didn’t want to be a distraction to the players and new staff. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization, and nothing but respect for the players and team management.
When asked if he was receiving offers yet, he said that he was still being paid by the Lightning for a year, however, he has been approached by other organizations. He wasn’t open to talk about who or where, but he did make it clear that he is ready now to get out there and move on.
“A lot of people have asked me my story and my story is very simple; I’m very grateful. I’m grateful for getting the chance to coach in the NHL. I’m grateful for having taken part in such a terrific organization where I was surrounded by quality people at all levels. My family and I couldn’t imagine being better treated, and welcomed and supported by the organization, by the fans and by the community.”
He thanked Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman, Tod Leiweke, and other Lightning staff. He especially wanted to thank the late Wayne Flemming, who passed away last week due to his struggle with brain cancer. Of course he wanted to thank the fans. He talked about the fans’ passion, and how they were always there for them, in good times and in bad. He spoke of the memories that have been made in his time with the Lightning.
“I’ll miss a lot of things, but what I’m probably going to miss the most is after every home game, those few seconds where the players get to the middle of the ice and raise their sticks to the crowd to thank them. I think those few seconds, that connection with everybody, was something extremely special and I’m going to miss that a lot.”
“Finally, I’d like to wish the Lightning all the best. I really believe they’re going to have success because there’s so many great people working for this cause. And for me, I’m ready for my next challenge.”
Today there was closure for both Boucher and for us. He didn’t close the book. He just finished a chapter. I can’t wait to read the next one.