April 15, 2015

Billy Boucher

Billy Boucher was one of four hockey-playing brothers from Ottawa who made it to the National Hockey League. Billy's brothers were Bobby, Frank and Georges, with the last two being Hockey Hall of Famers.

Not that Billy Boucher was a slouch.

King Clancy described Billy Boucher as "quite a problem for defencemen. He had a good shot and a very deceptive fake. I always felt he didn't get as much credit as he deserved. I thought him one of the ace right wingers of his time."

Cy Denneny said that he was a "clean player and a good sportsman."

Billy Boucher, a strong skater and tricky puck carrier, scored 17 goals as a rookie for the Montreal Canadiens in 1921-22. Only Odie Cleghorn had more for the Habs.

As an interesting side note, Boucher wore #10 that season before switching to his familiar #5. But he may have worn #13 as well, which would have made him the first NHL player to wear this supposedly unlucky number.

The following season Boucher really emerged. Despite being just 5'7" and weighing only 155 pounds, Boucher led the entire NHL in penalty minutes with 55 PIMs. But he also scored 24 goals in 24 games, the second highest total in the entire league (behind only Toronto's Babe Dye with 26). Boucher's 31 points also ranked him 3rd overall in the entire league (Behind Dye with 37 and Cy Denneny with 34).

The Montreal Canadiens really emerged as the top team in hockey in 1923-24. The scrappy Boucher was placed on a line with another undersized speedester named  Aurèle Joliat on left wing and a rookie sensation at center named Howie Morenz. The trio would become arguably the best line in hockey for a few years. That season Boucher again ranked 2nd overall in NHL goal scoring (behind Denneny with  as well as point scoring.

The spring of 1924 saw the Habs win the second Stanley Cup in team history, the first as an NHL franchise. (Their first Stanley Cup championship pre-dated the NHL). It was extra special for the Boucher family as brother Bobby also joined Montreal that season and also earned his name on the Stanley Cup.

The next season saw the legendary Montreal Forum open its doors on November 29, 1924. That night Montreal defeated the Toronto St. Pats 7-1 in the inaugural match. It was Billy Boucher who became the answer to a great trivia question, as he had the honor of scoring the first goal at the Forum.

Boucher continued on in Montreal until 1927 when he was moved to Boston in exchange for Carson Cooper. Though Boucher didn't register a point, he helped the Bruins to a long playoff run in 1927.

Boucher's rights were returned to Montreal in the summer of 1927, but he was moved on to the New York Americans by the start of the 1927-28 season. He finished his NHL days after one season with the Amerks.

In total Billy Boucher scored 96 goals and 134 points in 213 NHL games. For a stretch of about 3 or even 4 seasons he was among the best players in the National Hockey League.

Though his NHL days ended after 1928, Boucher continued to play with the New Haven Eagles (3 seasons) and the Bronx Tigers (1 season) of the minor league CAHL. He would later coach in England and the University of Ottawa.

Boucher died of a heart attack on November 10, 1958, which just happened to be his 59th birthday.

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