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Gag or ploy, DeBoer's mind game with rookie is masterful

Playing in his first NHL game, Reid Boucher was sitting without a care in the world on the New Jersey bench when he should have been out at center ice preparing for a shootout attempt. It was a terrific gag/ploy pulled off by New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Reid Boucher is going to remember that moment for the rest of his life. And the devilish way in which it was planned and executed was captured splendidly on TSN.

The Devils and Montreal Canadiens were going to a shootout last night in New Jersey. As the ice surface was getting a quick clean, play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert and analyst Ray Ferraro – boy, I’ll miss those guys next season – talked about the Devils being 0-for-14 in shootout attempts this season and 0-for-20 going back to last season.

One of them said that explains the name at the top of the list of New Jersey shooters. The camera then closed in on Boucher, looking relaxed sitting on the Devils bench, taking in the final seconds of his first NHL game and probably wondering which of proven NHL snipers Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias or Michael Ryder was going to shoot first for his new team.

But it was the rookie who was going to shoot first, Cuthbert explained. Boucher, a 62-goal scorer in the Ontario League last season, must have had ice, not just ice water in his veins, the way he looked as though he didn’t have a care in the world.

All of a sudden, Boucher’s head shot to the right and up and his eyebrows peaked. Then, you could almost read his lips. “Oh! You want me to shoot first?”

The camera panned out and you could tell a seated Boucher was looking up in the direction of Devils coach Peter DeBoer and assistant Dave Barr. Boucher immediately scrambled over the boards onto the ice, now directing his gaze at Montreal goalie Peter Budaj.

Cuthbert and Ferraro jumped all over this slice of devilish, but good-natured chicanery. They realized right away Boucher has no idea he was the player tasked with getting the shootout proceedings going. He didn’t know the world was waiting for him.

Ferraro said a slow, wry smile then came over DeBoer’s face. He added they didn’t tell Boucher until the last second probably because they didn’t want the 20-year-old Sarnia Sting grad to overthink the shootout attempt.

If it was gag on the rookie or a well thought-out scheme to keep him relaxed, the ploy worked. Boucher went in on Budaj, shot blocker side, just inside the post and scored.

As Boucher calmly skated back to the bench – not wanting to celebrate too much, the game was still on – the players and coaches were obviously thrilled for the kid.

The camera closed in on DeBoer and he beamed in satisfaction. As he looked up at the scoreclock, you could see the moisture in the coach’s eyes. It was that kind of a moment.

The Canadiens came back and won the game in the shootout, but for Boucher it was a game and moment he’ll never forget. For DeBoer as well.

– – –

Skip to 3:33 in this NHL video if you want to see Boucher's shootout goal.

(Edit note: Correction was made that Chris Cuthbert, not Gord Miller, was calling play-by-play.)

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN


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