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Former Komets Bruce Boudreau and John Anderson working together again

Courtesy of Minnesota Wild<br /> <br /> Long-time friends and former Komets Bruce Boudreau, left, and John Anderson have reunited this season behind the bench of the NHL's Minnesota Wild who currently lead the Western Conference standings.
Courtesy of Minnesota Wild

Long-time friends and former Komets Bruce Boudreau, left, and John Anderson have reunited this season behind the bench of the NHL's Minnesota Wild who currently lead the Western Conference standings.
Courtesy of Fort Wayne Komets<br />
<br />
During the 1990-91 season, John Anderson, left, and Bruce Boudreau helped lead the reborn Fort Wayne Komets to the International Hockey League's Turner Cup Finals. 
Courtesy of Fort Wayne Komets

During the 1990-91 season, John Anderson, left, and Bruce Boudreau helped lead the reborn Fort Wayne Komets to the International Hockey League's Turner Cup Finals. 
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Best friends have coached Minnesota Wild to NHL conference lead

Monday, January 23, 2017 08:51 am
The first time Bruce Boudreau met John Anderson, the 16-year-old long-haired red-headed right winger had just been called up by the Ontario Hockey League's Toronto Marlboros. After watching Boudreau score 87 points with the Marlies the season before from the stands, Anderson thought the center was a superstar and knew to have a chance to score, he needed to play on the 18-year-old's line. "I was lucky enough to assist on his first goal when he got up there," Boudreau said. "Then I assisted on his first NHL goal when he came up."

Except there's another story about the first NHL goal.

"It was against Minnesota, and Trevor Johansen scored his first goal, but Bruce got a hat trick that game and we won 6-3," Anderson recalls. "The funny thing was Gabby (Boudreau) didn't even get the first star. He was so ticked off about it, and 40 years later, he's still ticked off. I'm like, `Oh, my God, get over it!' "

Then a couple of years later when the Maple Leafs were playing the Boston Bruins, Boudreau and Anderson broke out on a 2-on-1. Knowing how good Boudreau was around the net, Anderson tried to set him up.

"It was kind of in his skates a little bit, and he couldn't handle it and shot it wide," Anderson said. "So we go back to the bench, and he looks at me and says, `Thanks, you just got me sent down!' Sure enough, the next day he gets sent down.

"Honest to God, the paper had a picture of it, and he has that picture downstairs in his bar. Let it go, man! He tells this story to everybody, and he brings them down and shows them the picture, and then they kind of get where we're at."

Where they are at is behind the bench of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. In his third NHL coaching stint, Boudreau is in his first season as Minnesota's boss and Anderson is his top assistant. For years as players they talked about playing together again at the end of their careers, which is why they came to Fort Wayne in 1990, and that entire season they talked about how someday they'd coach together. Even when Boudreau was already an NHL coach in Washington and Anderson was leading the Atlanta Thrashers for two seasons, they never gave up on the dream. Though he had won four championships with the AHL's Chicago Wolves, Anderson resigned last summer as soon as Boudreau was named coach in Minnesota.

"It just took 27 years, can you imagine?" Anderson said. "He didn't have to convince me, all he had to do was ask me. The beautiful thing about Bruce is he doesn't change. He is who he is. He's as honest as the day is long, and he's very accountable. One thing about coaching in the AHL, no matter how well you do, you'll never get a Stanley Cup ring."

After the Wild shocked everyone with a recent 12-game winning streak to climb to the Western Conference standings lead, Boudreau has been selected to coach in Sunday's NHL All-Star Game. It's a Minnesota rebirth season and for Anderson and Boudreau to be coaching in the same place.

"We talked about this a lot when we lived together that year in Fort Wayne," Boudreau said.

The 1990-91 season was remarkable as the Vagabond Komets revitalized hockey in Fort Wayne and advanced to the Turner Cup Finals. Before Anderson (then 34) got hurt in February, Boudreau (then 36), Anderson and linemate Lonnie Loach were the International Hockey League's leading scorers, called "The Century Club" because of their combined age and it looked like they'd all score 100 points. Both Anderson and Boudreau still call that season one of the best years of their lives.

"It was one of the closest teams I ever played on," Anderson said. "I was pissed off about hockey and wanted to retire. I just felt that hockey had done me wrong and I could still play in the NHL. I was so angry that I didn't want to play anymore. Then Gabby called me and said, `Why don't you come to Fort Wayne?' and I'm like, `Where in the world is Fort Wayne?' The only reason I went there was to play with him and it was an awesome, awesome experience. I'm so glad I did it because it made me feel good about myself and the game."

Anderson left after that season, but Boudreau remained for one more before retiring to start his coaching career in Muskegon. He came back to coach the Komets to the Turner Cup Finals 1994, and Anderson started his coaching career two years later in Winston-Salem and then Quad City.

"We were friendly adversaries," Boudreau said. "Every time I played him, I wanted to beat him worse than I wanted to beat anybody. I remember one game we won in overtime after scoring a couple of goals late to tie it up. The refereeing was bad and I heard John going over to the ref after the game to start yelling at him, and I'm like skipping off the ice as fast as I could and laughing my butt off."

Even off the ice, they've always been close. Anderson is godfather to Boudreau's son, introduced Boudreau to his first wife and then was co-best man (with former Komet Stu Burnie) at his second wedding. It's kind of appropriate because they often argue like an old married couple, knowing just where to poke because they were either there or know all the stories about one another.

When Boudreau wanted an assistant coach to run the Wild's power play and also have his back, and he knew Anderson would be perfect. They are self-described hockey nerds who can talk about the game all the time.

"It's funny that I'm in my 60s and John is in his late-50s when we finally get the chance to work together again," Boudreau said. "We hung on long enough to see it happen."

Now the duo can get after each other in person, and the rest of the coaching staff thinks they are nuts but love laughing along. Anderson says he's the lucky guy to be part of a staff that includes Scott Stevens, Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason.

"They think we're crazy and we think we're normal," Anderson said. "When we're together, I give it to him and he gives it to me, and we laugh all the time. We both know that our heart is in the right place because we both want to win. I have his back 100 percent."

And now there are more stories to create.

"My son who visited recently brought me this nice off-the-bone ham," Anderson said. "So we have this special bread that is made in the rink here so I went and grabbed four slices so I can have it with this ham. You know what he did? He hid my bread on me, like we're 17 years old or something! You stole my bread!' and he started laughing. But this is how well I know him — the first place I look I found it. It never stops."

Yes, being together again has made both men feel just like teenagers, and once again setting each other up, this time off the ice.

"It's just been a pleasure so far," Boudreau said. "He loves the game as much as I do, and it would be a great finishing story if we could win something together."

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. 


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