Navy veteran dedicates golden years to hockey

Victoria Grizzlies Educational Advisor Butch Boucher (left) gives advice to Grizzlies right-winger Marty Westhaver in the team’s head office at the Q-Centre in Colwood. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Victoria Grizzlies Educational Advisor Butch Boucher (left) gives advice to Grizzlies right-winger Marty Westhaver in the team’s head office at the Q-Centre in Colwood. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout


Peter Mallett, Staff Writer –

Butch Boucher enjoyed a 46-year career with the Department of National Defence but now his days are filled with hockey.

The 72-year-old retired Chief Petty Officer says while most men his age have hung up their skates, he is still quite handy between the pipes with a stick and blocker.

His passion for the national sport began with shinny hockey on outdoor rinks in Timmins, Ontario, in the 1950s and later for his high school team. He wasn’t always a goaltender; he only took up the position when he was asked to fill a vacancy in a local recreation league back in the mid-1990s. Now he doesn’t want to play anywhere else on the ice.

Boucher tends goal three days a week in three different senior leagues around the Greater Victoria area plus tournament play.

When he turned 65 he played 115 games that year; however, he has slowed down a bit, now playing only 85 to 90 games.

“As a goalie, I play against many younger players who could well be my grandsons and enjoy both the competitiveness and the comradeship.”

In December, he enjoyed a reunion with his military peers, playing in a Hull Tech’s charity hockey game at Wurtele Arena. Later in the month, he volunteered during the World Junior ‘A’ Hockey Championship Games in Victoria. He is also with the Victoria Playmakers Old-Timers Committee which holds an annual tournament in Victoria, and 2019 is their 30th year.

He also mentors the next generation of hockey players.

Boucher is one of three educational advisors for the Victoria Grizzlies Junior ‘A’ hockey team. He began working for the BCHL team 12 years ago, with his efforts focused on helping players achieve their dreams of playing university hockey in Canada and the United States. He acts as a liaison for the team with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and Canadian universities. It’s his job to make sure players have their paperwork and high school transcripts in order, player profiles, properly prepared entrance exams such as SATs, and that they remain fully focused on both education and hockey.

“The biggest challenge is getting players to recognize if they want a scholarship they have to really work hard; that it’s not going to be given to them,” said Boucher. “These are young men with a lot of pressure on them because unfortunately at the end of the day you may have more than a third of your players on the roster without a scholarship.”

He says between 10 and 12 players on their roster each season get scholarships.

Some players make it to the National Hockey League like Victoria hockey siblings Jamie and Jordie Benn who both played for the Grizzlies. Then there are others like former Grizzlies centre Tyler Bozak who now plays for the St. Louis Blues.

“The NCAA is the path for many to the NHL,” says Boucher. “There are 133 Junior ‘A’ teams in Canada and the NCAA seems to just love the BCHL, which is considered the premier Jr. ‘A’ league in Canada.”

Boucher’s son Nick Boucher earned a scholarship to Ivy League school Dartmouth College, where he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins after starting his hockey career with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, and then went on to play professionally with the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League (IHL). His jersey, hanging in the rafters, was retired by the Komets six years ago.

Grizzlies right-winger Marty Westhaver says most of the players on the team are aware of Boucher’s passion for hockey – not to mention his abilities as a goalie. He also knows what it takes to get them the attention of collegiate scouts, says Westhaver.

“I and the rest of the players have a really good working relationship with Butch. He can be hard on us, making us get stuff done, and he keeps after us for things like school transcripts but we know he is a good guy who is helping us pave a way to an education and a possible career in hockey.”

Don Robinson, a member of the Grizzlies ownership group agrees.

“He keeps track of all our players and you can tell he has a genuine interest and truly cares about these kids and wants to make sure they make it.”

Boucher and the team are now looking forward to Grizzlies Military Appreciation night at the Q-Centre in Colwood on Jan. 25 when they take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals. He says it will give the team an opportunity to showcase itself to the military community.

“I hope people from the base come out because they will enjoy the Grizzlies and the BCHL because it is really good hockey that is both affordable and exciting.”

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