[Every day this week at Japers' Rink, we'll be sharing a new excerpt from Bruce Boudreau's forthcoming autobiography "Gabby - Confessions of a Hockey Lifer" (co-written by Tim Leone). The book, published by the good folks over at Potomac Books, Inc., hits book store shelves in October, 2009, but you can (and should) pre-order it now via Amazon.com or BN.com.
Today's excerpt picks up in overtime of Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Flyers.]
There were two controversial calls by my neighbor, referee Paul Devorski. Devo and I owned homes in the same subdivision in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He lived two doors away. Yes, it’s a small world.
In overtime Devo made a neutral-zone hooking call on Tom Poti that set up Joffrey Lupul’s power-play series winner. I understand the standard is to not let everything go. The problem is that a no-whistle tone had been set. They didn’t call any penalties in the third period and didn’t call John Erskine earlier in overtime for a trip that stopped a potential Kapanen breakaway. A call on Erskine, a defenseman who competes his butt off and provides a needed physical element, would have been a more valid penalty on which to decide the series.
I give Paul credit for having the guts, whether he’s right or wrong, to make the call on Poti. Devo had an explanation for everything. However, he was the back referee. Why did he make that call? Why didn’t ref Don Koharski, who had the play right in front of him, make that call? I don’t understand that.
I had a bad gut feeling when we got the penalty. Poti was our best penalty killer, and he was in the box. We almost killed all of it, but Lupul scored at 6:06 with nine seconds left on the power play for a 3-2 Philly win. I tried not to look at the Flyers’ celebration. You hate it when you lose. I wanted to hug all my players. I’d believed they were going to go deep into the play-offs. I was so proud of their effort. It would have been easy for them to quit on many occasions.
We did our best, and it was just one of those things that went the other way. A great hockey game, a great series. I didn’t have a lot to say in the locker room. I told them, "I’m so proud of the way you guys worked for me as a guy who just showed up. You could have said you’re waiting until you get a big-name coach. But you worked your hearts out for me, and I’m so proud of you. You did something great, and we’re on the verge of being really great."
They weren’t ready to hear it. They were crushed. But they needed to keep their heads up.
I was numb. I didn’t have any emotion left, either sadness or happiness. You’re going a hundred miles per hour, all your senses are operating at their peak, and everything comes to a sudden halt in a blink.
The bottom line is it was time to say good-bye. To the 2007–8 season. To a special group of players.
We had the traditional end-of-season exit meetings with the players. After meeting with Brooks Laich, he left the room and then poked his head back in.
"Bruce, I wanted to tell you," Brooks said. "Sergei Fedorov said the best two coaches he ever had were you and Scotty Bowman, for instincts behind the bench and stuff."
I don’t know if it’s true. But, boy, it hit me. Being in the same breath with Scotty Bowman in the eyes of Sergei Fedorov. What a moment. For a minor-league guy who had been shot down most of his life, that was pretty incredible.
When I got home to Harrisburg after we’d wrapped up the season, I took my son Brady to Paul Devorski’s house.
I knocked on the door and said, "Paul?"
"Yes?" he warily answered.
"No hard feelings." I shook his hand, and Paul seemed relieved
"Good," Devo said. "Now will you phone my son? He hasn’t talked to me in three days."
"I’m over here to say there’s no hard feelings," I added, "because you’re the only one in the neighborhood who has a pool. And we’re going to have to use it this summer."
[This concludes our week-long series of excerpts. Special thanks go out to Sam Dorrance of Potomac Books for all of his help, and, of course, to Bruce Boudreau and Tim Leone for writing the book and making this possible. There's obviously quite a bit in the book that we didn't get a chance to share with you this week (remember this tidbit from well before the two met in the playoffs?), but hopefully the sampling we've provided has fed your hockey-starved appetite for a bit. Now go and buy the darn thing - it won't be 34% off forever.]