Bob Boughner couldn’t resist the opportunity to live out his NHL dream for a second time.
The 39-year-old has decided to walk away from the Windsor Spitfires to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant coach.
Boughner was head coach and president of the Windsor teams that won the last two Memorial Cups and says he probably would have been happy in that situation for another 10 years. However, the former NHL defenceman simply couldn’t pass up the chance to make the jump after being contacted by the Blue Jackets.
“There’s still something deep down inside that says one day you want to get back to the NHL,” Boughner said Monday in an interview. “This is a great opportunity for me.”
He’ll work under new head coach Scott Arniel and fills out a staff that also includes assistants Brad Berry and Dan Hinote.
Columbus was a particularly appealing destination because it is only a three- or four-hour drive from Windsor. Boughner’s wife, Jennifer, and their four children will continue to live in Ontario.
“This makes a lot of sense to me,” he said. “It’s still close to Windsor for me, I don’t have to uproot the family. After meeting with Scott Arniel and (GM) Scott Howson, I really liked what I had to hear.
“I’m excited but it’s a job where I have to work with some young players and that’s what I’ve done here the last four years.”
Boughner played 630 career NHL games and took a job with his hometown Spitfires shortly after retiring in 2006. It was a tough first season behind the bench, but Windsor went through a dramatic resurgence following that—winning 41 regular-season games in 2007-08, 57 games in 2008-09 and 50 games last season.
He was twice named the Canadian Hockey League’s coach of the year.
“Bob has become one of the top young coaches in the game and we are very pleased to have him join our coaching staff,” Arniel said in a statement. “He enjoyed a long and successful career as an NHL player and has achieved a great deal as the head coach of the Windsor Spitfires the past four seasons.”
There’s one downside to the new position. Boughner was slated to serve as an assistant on Dave Cameron’s Canadian coaching staff at this year’s world junior championship and will have to give up that post.
“That’s one of the bigger regrets, if anything,” said Boughner. “World juniors was a dream job. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Hockey Canada’s program of excellence committee plans to come up with a process to replace him over the next week.
Boughner is extremely anxious to get to work in Columbus and feels optimistic about the organization he’s joining.
“They’ve drafted well over the last few years and they’ve got some great young talent,” said Boughner. “Hopefully with this new coaching regime, if we can get the young guys really stepping up and playing well and contributing on a nightly basis … we’ll give ourselves a chance of making the playoffs.”
On a personal level, the move puts him one step closer to his goal of becoming the head coach of an NHL team.
“I want to make sure that if eventually one day I do get a head job that I’m going to be very well-prepared,” said Boughner. “I’m going to learn from some great people—Scott Arniel, Brad Berry, guys like this.
“I think it’s a process. That’s why I’m doing this.”