RIMOUSKI, Que. — The Tim Hortons’ commerical, Guy Boucher acknowledges, is true.
Sidney Crosby really would jump off a stalled bus in the middle of nowhere to play hockey with a bunch of kids.
Before he turned the Drummondville Voltigeurs from chumps to Quebec league champs and a berth in this week’s Memorial Cup, Boucher was a Rimouski Oceanic assistant during the Crosby Show.
“Oh, Sidney would be so mad if we gave the team a day off,” the 37-year-old Volts boss said. “We’d try to make him go home, shoo him off, and he’d go find the rink attendant to let him on the ice. “He’d always be here. We’d go hard for two-and-a-half hours and still want more.”
Junior hockey assistants always get the crummy jobs.
“One of mine was to go in the corners and cross-check Sidney,” Boucher said. “He wanted you to cross-check him so he could work on his grinding skills. He’d do things like that. Terrible things. Always down on one knee after the puck. Over and over. He would punish himself.
“When he got to Pittsburgh, I knew he would raise the work ethic level for everyone there. You could see it, in a short time, go up and up and up.”
You’ve heard of Crosby already. The guy who got paid to cross-check him isn’t going away, either.
Already this tournament, one report had Boucher heading to Hamilton to coach the Montreal Canadiens’ American Hockey League farm team.
The West Island, Que., native remains a rising star in Hockey Canada’s program. He has a master’s degree in psychology, skated for McGill and even went to Viry, France to play.
He has already worked four international tournaments, including assisting Pat Quinn at this year’s world juniors in Ottawa.
Most impressively, Boucher transformed a Voltigeurs team that won just 11 times last year into a 54-win juggernaut that played its way into the Cup.
The 79-point turnaround is a Canadian Hockey League record. Even the Windsor Spifires’ rapid rebound wasn’t as quick.
“We never gave up on the kids last year,” Boucher said. “In the final few months of the season, we didn’t think about summer. They still played hard every game. We made it the goal to beat the best teams and we did. We sent them home with a very intense conditioning program and they set records with it.
“They came back this year ready to win.”
They added Maple Leafs prospect Chris DiDomenico at the deadline. He was a force but broke his leg in the league final.
“Chris took over games,” Boucher said. “He didn’t just create goals. He killed penalties. Played every big situation. We lost our best player.”
And yet, they’re still in business. This week, DiDomenico sits in a wheelchair beside the bench — an inspirational symbol.
When it applies, Boucher will tell the Volts another Crosby story. They all long to hear those tales of inner drive.
“(Forward) Gabriel Dumont, he has that same drive Sidney has,” Boucher said. “If there was a picture in the dictionary for relentless, it would be Dumont. The difference is he doesn’t have the same talent. Like Sidney, even if we were on the ice for 25 minutes, he’d ask himself, ‘How can I get better?’”
Crosby wasn’t, Boucher said, the most gifted he’s seen.
“Probably (Mike) Ribiero,” Boucher said. “The things he could do with the puck.”
Couldn’t be any better than what this guy has done behind the bench.
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