AMHERST – Playoff hockey is a place where any edge or advantage can be the difference between a long playoff run and going home early.
With the Maritime Hockey League playoffs not far off, Amherst Ramblers coach Jim Bottomley invited his good friend, former NHL defenceman Paul Boutilier, to help refine and sharpen his defensive corps a little further.
Boutilier helped out during Tuesday night’s practice, and Bottomley said Boutilier will be working on and off with the Ramblers right through to the playoffs.
“He’ll work closely with (defensive coach) Jim Ripley to help work on a couple of key principals.” said Bottomley.
Boutilier is from Cape Breton and was drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round, 21st overall, in the 1981 NHL entry draft.
He played for the 1983 Stanley Cup winning Islanders. They won the best-of-seven final series 4-0 over the Edmonton Oilers, winning their fourth Stanley Cup in a row. It was the last cup the Islanders ever won.
“We won the conference the next year (1984) and then (the Oilers Wayne) Gretzky got too good, and that was the end,” said Boutilier
The Oilers beat the Islanders in the 1984 final series 4-1.
Boutilier admits he wasn’t one of the Islanders stars.
“The kids today might say, “oh you played with Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin and Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies,” and I say, “What about anybody else?” and they say, “I don’t know, who else was there?”
“I was the ‘who else,” says Boutilier with a laugh.
He says Bossy was the best goal scorer he’s ever seen.
“You knew that if you got the puck to him, anywhere and any time, you might get an assist. He could score from Row-2 if you gave it to him there,” said Boutilier. “And Potvin was one of the best defencemen to ever play, and I played behind him.”
He said playing in the NHL was everything he hoped it would be as a kid growing up in Cape Breton, and says his experience of winning the cup taught him what it takes to be a winner.
“It was a great team to be part of,” said Boutilier. “I learned how to win and that carries over to life.”
Boutilier now teaches international business at UPEI. Making the transition from hockey to a new career wasn’t too difficult for him.
“There’s only one Gordie Howe and I wasn’t it. I knew I wasn’t going to play until I was 50-years-old,” he said. “And I had good parents. After I finished playing hockey it was like, ‘Oh my god I have to do something, what’s it going to be?’”
Boutilier now lives in Halifax.
“Amherst is on the way home (from UPEI), so I’m going to work in the background with the guys over the next couple of months to see if I can help them out,” he said.
Boutilier has developed a defensive program he uses to help pro hockey teams he consults.
“Defence is more complicated now because you can’t hook and hold anymore,” he said. “I take those complexities and make them more simple and help it make sense.”
He says he enjoyed his first night of practice with the Ramblers.
“It’s a great group. They showed great respect, and with the way the team is winning you know it’s a good group of guys,” he said.
“They have a good young team and they’re doing quite well, so I don’t want to screw anything up,” he added with a laugh.
Bottomley is happy Boutilier is giving his free time to help out.
“You want to share ideas, and any time you get a chance to work with another coach you certainly do it,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to pick up a little more information and get some insight from a different perspective.”
Boutilier said it was fun to skate on the ice at Amherst Stadium for the first time.
“Amherst has always had a big history with junior hockey,” he said. “As a guy from around here it was nice to skate around on the ice and be a part of it.
“It’s a very respected franchise in the league.”
1981 – Boutilier went to the Memorial Cup finals with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Castors but they lost to the Ktchener Rangers.
1981 – Boutilier was drafted in the first round, 21st overall, by the New York Islanders. Dale Hawerchuk was the No. 1 pick in the 1981 draft. Other notable players taken in the first round in 1981 includes: Ron Francis, Grant Fuhr, James Patrick, and Al MacInnis.
1982 – He won gold at the 1982 Canadian Junior World hockey tournament in Rochester, Minnesota. Patrick was also on the 1982 world junior roster. “James is a great guy,” said Boutilier.
1983 – Boutilier won a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders. He went on to play with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota North Stars.
1990 – Boutilier retired from playing professional hockey. He played his last season with SC Bern in Switzerland.