Elliotte Friedman, a hockey reporter for Sportsnet, speculated last week that Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau, 68, would likely be sacked in the following days. Jeff Marek stated on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evening that Boudreau would be fired this coming Monday.
The Canucks organization’s handling of the incident is both terrible and a reminder of how brutal top management can be towards their people.
Obviously, the NHL is a results-driven industry. The Canucks have underachieved throughout the whole season. Ownership and senior management have full authority to evaluate and replace employees. However, the manner in which these decisions are made reveals everything about the individuals involved. This unfolding situation illustrates the shallowness of their leadership abilities and lack of character.
At a news conference on January 16, Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford not only put his coach under the proverbial bus, but also sparked a case study on how not to treat people when personnel changes are forthcoming.
“All I can say is that Bruce [Boudreau] is our coach right now,” Rutherford informed media members. He did so knowing that both Friedman and Marek had been reporting earlier on the imminent replacement of Boudreau by another coach, Rick Tocchet.
“But with that, I’m calling and talking, but don’t know that we’re making a change and don’t want to make a change,” said Rutherford in one of the sharpest lies directed at the Vancouver press. Imagine how Boudreau felt after that.
The Canucks are owned by the Aquilini family, who, along with Rutherford, will likely endure the ire of fans for some time. In fact, they have already done so. At home games on January 20 and 21, the Vancouver crowd could be heard regularly chanting “Bruce, there it is,” a heartfelt tribute to a remarkably loving and genuine individual.
Not only do Vancouver fans like Boudreau, but current and former Boudreau players have come out openly in favor of him while hurling grenades at Canucks management and owners.
Andrew Cogliano, who is now a member of the Colorado Avalanche, played for the Anaheim Ducks under Boudreau from 2011 to 2016. Cogliano stated in a media scrum, “I have my thoughts on what’s going on here [Vancouver] with him on a personal level and I don’t think it’s warranted.”
“He’s done a good job throughout the league. We had a lot of success in Anaheim and I attribute a lot of my success in the league to him. I love him,” Cogliano added.
Yes, a hockey player said that he loved a former coach.
Boudreau is the type of person to whom people from all walks of life admire. The media, fans, players, ex-players, trainers, and other members of the hockey community have nothing but praise for him. He is a “player’s coach,” a leader who interacts with his entire staff as people, as important human beings.
Reporters questioned Boudreau on Friday morning if he would take some time to enjoy the games on Friday and Saturday night, knowing that he may be fired following them.
I don’t know yet,” Boudreau said. “I’d really, you know, I mean, be a fool not to say that I don’t know what’s going on, but just like I said before, you come to work, and you realize, you know, how great the game is.”
Boudreau paused, then stopped talking. He got choked up, ended the media session, and said, “I’ll talk later.”
Rutherford and the Aquilini family should be ashamed of themselves. How does their response to the circumstance reflect their leadership? Why would anyone want to play in Vancouver? Not only is it probable that existing players are doubting their loyalty to the club, but why would potential new players want to sign for the club? What’s to say Rutherford and the owners won’t do the same thing again as they have done to Boudreau?
Boudreau deserved to be treated with decency and respect if a coaching change was necessary, not the horrible manner in which this entire affair has unfolded.
Rutherford and the owners are not the leaders they think they are. But Boudreau is everything that defines a dignified and authentic leader.
Please, more Boudreaus and less Rutherfords and Aquilinis in this world.
Publishing in October 2023, a new book, Work-Life Bloom: How to Nurture a Team that Flourishes, (You won’t want to miss digging in.)