Editor’s note: Bob Boucher is the second of four Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame inductees being profiled.
AUBURN – It was probably the last thing Scott Rousseau expected or wanted.
Coming off a state championship season as a junior, the high-scoring center for the St. Dominic hockey team was asked by Coach Bob Boucher to switch to defense his senior year.
“We had a very young team,” he recalls. “I didn’t like it very much as a 17-year old. It’s what the team needed. I had to accept that, and I had to learn not to be selfish.”
Rousseau went on to lead the team in scoring as a defenseman that year and now brings credibility to his role as a coach having made that difficult sacrifice himself.
“When I look back on that and I’m asking the same thing of my players, I would never be asking that of them if I hadn’t learned that as a 17-year old,” says Rousseau. “It wasn’t better or worse. It was just different. It just took some time and growing up. It’s what needed to be done, and it was the right thing for the team.”
Ben Rocheleau also finds himself teaching his Massabesic hockey team lessons he learned while playing for Boucher.
“Everything I teach my kids now, a lot of it has to do with his style of coaching,” said Rocheleau. “He treated his team like every single one of them is a champion. When I was on his team seeing that was important. I wasn’t one of the top players, but he made me feel like I was.”
One moment Rocheleau remembers is a playoff game against Cony at Bowdoin College. The Saints were down a few goals after a St. Dom’s player had scored twice in his own net.
“He just said We have 15 minutes of hockey left to play. You have to go out there and play with all your heart and all your soul and do the best that you can,'” recalls Rocheleau. “He doesn’t ask any more than that. I don’t think he ever asked any more than that.”
As a player at Lewiston, Boucher says he started thinking about coaching at an early age. Between his youth coach, Ivan Cote, Don Girard at Lewiston and later, Tom Lawler at Merrimack, Boucher had his own mentors.
“They all brought a different part of them into the game,” said Boucher. “Some were very structured. Some coached with a lot of intensity. So putting all of those things together, I thought maybe I might fit into that category and give it a try. I feel I could have bits and pieces of all three of them.”
Growing up in the Holy Family Parish, Boucher was introduced to hockey. He lived next door to Larry Charest, the former St. Dom’s coach.
“St. Dom’s was getting all the best players in the city and when Don Girard came over (to Lewiston), he started getting good players and Bob was one of them,” said Bob Provencher, Lewiston’s assistant coach under Girard. “Since he played under Don Girard, he learned the basics and he knew the basics of hockey.”
He was a standout player for Lewiston and the captain of the Blue Devils. He brought a sense of purpose to the job. Former teammate Gene Veilleux says on that Lewiston team just about everyone acted like a captain. So it wasn’t an easy squad for Boucher to lead.
“We used to give him a hard time,” said Veilleux. “He had to take a lot from us. He wanted things one way, and it seemed like we always gave him a hard time. “
Boucher played at Merrimack after high school and got his introduction to coaching with the Edward Little JV team for two seasons.
“It was exciting to work with kids,” said Boucher. “It kept you young. It kept you playing. Every single day you’d put on the skates like you normally do as a player. It was really enjoyable.”
He later took a teaching job at St. Dom’s, and when a coaching job opened up there, he applied. Little did he know he would be there for 25 years, earning five state titles and three Coach of the Year awards. He also coached the boys’ soccer team for 16 years and won three more state titles. He still serves as the school’s athletic director.
“There’s something to be said for longevity and learning not to get too high or too low,” said Rousseau. “There’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure and a lot of ups and downs. There’s a higher calling to being a high school coach, and you have to understand that to really do it for 25 years. I think he understood that.”
Boucher says what he learned most during he tenure as a coach was an ability to allow for kids to blossom at their own rate.
“You need patience to realize that they’re only kids,” said Boucher. “You’ve got to put yourself back in that time period where you took time to learn too and remember that you didn’t learn over night.”
Though he had plenty of success as a coach, the accomplishments he most cherishes are not his own.
“Working with kids and seeing them move onto higher levels is probably most important,” said Boucher.
Rousseau is entering his 10th year at Falmouth while Rocheleau has been coaching for four years, the last two at Massabesic. St. Dom’s assistant Steve Ouellette and Fern Cloutier, who coached at Cape Elizabeth, are also former Saints that have gone on to the coaching level. Former players Greg Moore and Derek Damon went on to the University of Maine and recently signed professional contracts.
“He was always striving to win regardless,” said Rocheleau. “Between periods, he’d never come in and scream like other coaches. He was just a class-act coach. I think a lot of his teaching is used in my coaching style.”
Rousseau says he learned to bring more pace and intensity to practices so games would be easier.
He also learned to treat each team with a new sense of optimism. He recalls running into Boucher between seasons and talking about the players that the Saints had lost. Boucher would never be concerned about replacing talent. He’d be focused on the players he had and confident that players would step forward and succeed.
“You look to players that you already have,” said Rousseau. “You have 29 other players show up that you need to coach. You teach the players that you have.”