Émile Bouchard: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Born September 4, 1919 (1919-09-04) (age 90),
Montreal, QC, CAN
6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)
Position Defence
Shot Right
Pro clubs Montreal Canadiens
Career 1941 – 1956
Hall of Fame, 1966

Émile Joseph (Butch) Bouchard, CM, CQ (born September 4, 1919) is a former Canadian ice hockey player who played defence with the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League from 1941 to 1956. He is member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, won four Stanley Cups, was captain of the Canadiens for eight years and was voted to the NHL All-Star Team four times. Although having a reputation as a clean player, he was also one of the strongest players and best body-checkers of his era. He excelled as a defensive defenceman, had superior passing skills and was known for his leadership and mentoring of younger players. In his early years in the NHL, Bouchard was one of the players who made a major contribution to reinvigorating what was at the time an ailing Canadien franchise.[1][2][3]

He was born in Montreal, Quebec, and currently lives in Saint-Lambert, Quebec. In retirement Bouchard was active with several business interests and contributions to his community. In 2008 he received the prestigious National Order of Quebec. On December 4, 2009 Bouchard's No. 3 was retired by the Canadiens as part of their 100th anniversary celebrations. On December 30, 2009 Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, announced Émile Bouchard as among the appointments to the Order of Canada.[4]


Youth and learning the game

Émile Bouchard was born September 4, 1919 in Montreal the son of Regina and Lachapelle Calixte Bouchard.[5][6] Growing up poor during the depression, Bouchard did not begin skating until he was 16 and had to learn on rented skates, before borrowing $35 from his brother for a complete set of hockey equipment which included his own pair of skates.[7] Bouchard opted for a career in hockey over banking when he was offered $75 a week to play senior hockey and the bank paid $7.[8] In the minors Bouchard played with the Verdun Maple Leafs, Montreal Junior Canadiens and Providence Reds. It was Verdun team-mate Bob Filion who gave Bouchard the nickname "Butch".[6] It originated due to the resemblance of his last name to the English word "butcher".[5] Bourchard was determined, strong and developed enough skills to impress coach Dick Irvin in the Canadiens’ 1940–41 training camp after which he was signed as a free agent.[9] Bouchard had arrived at training camp in peak condition, which was unusual for NHL players of the time.[2] To attend this first training camp he road a bike 50 miles, which also allowed him to pocket the travel expenses the Canadiens had allotted.[10][11][12]

In an era when hockey players were regarded by hockey management as rural and unsophisticated,[3] Bouchard had already developed his entrepreneurial skills. While still in high school he was working along side an inspector with the department of agriculture when he came across a bee ranch owned by a priest who had just died. Borrowing $500 from his brother he bought the business.[12] He turned it into an apiary of 200 hives which was so successful he earned enough to buy his parents a home.[6][13][14] It was due to this business acuity that prior to signing with the Canadiens he uncovered what Ken Reardon and Elmer Lach, already playing with the Montreal, were currently earning. Then, over the course of ten days he negotiated a larger contract than either player had been receiving, $3,750[12] (approximately $55,000 in today's dollars[15]).[7]

NHL career


Arrival to the Canadiens

Along with a strong work ethic and keen intellect, Bouchard was physically imposing. At 6'2" and 205 pounds he was considered a giant compared to NHL players of the 1940s, when the average height was 5'8" and average weight was 165 pounds.[16] Moreover, since he also practiced heavy weight training in an era before NHL players were concerned about upper body strength[17] he became a very effective defensive presence.[2] Hockey Hall of Fame leftwinger and team-mate Dickie Moore said of Bouchard: "He appeared to have been chiseled out of stone."[3]

By the time of Bouchard's arrival to the Montreal Canadiens the club had not won the championship for 10 years and attendance at the Forum was very low, often less than 3,000 a game,[3][18] and there was even talk of folding the franchise.[6] A few years earlier, in 1935, Canadien owners had seriously considered an offer to sell the team to be moved to Cleveland.[19] After finishing last or near the bottom of the league for several years, apathy of the fans was matched by the players themselves who had accepted losing as way of hockey life. In his first training camp, he had body checked his own team-mates, including the veteran players, with abandon. Then, in league games other teams discovered with Bouchard in the lineup they could no longer push Canadien players around. Bouchard's presence reinvigorated the Canadiens[2][3] and he is credited with playing an important part in bringing the franchise back from the brink of oblivion.[3]

However, Bouchard was more than just a physical presence. He learned to play good positional hockey and became skilled at passing the puck.[2] He also possessed a flair for judging the flow of the game and knew when to join the attack and when to retreat.[7] Despite his role being that of a "stay-at-home" defensive defenceman, due to his skills for the long breakout pass he was even a contributor to the style of firewagon hockey[20] for which the Canadiens exemplified.[2][6][11][21]

1942 Montreal Canadiens posing for photo on rink. First row of seven players kneeling and second row of seven players standing behind.
Team photo 1942 Montreal Canadiens. The team which pulled the ailing franchise back from the brink of oblivion. Bouchard back row far right.

Although having an immediate impact on the team, Bouchard did not fully develop into an NHL star player until his second year.[2] In his first season 1941–42 he collected six points for the regular season and finally scored the first NHL goal of his career in the Canadiens' first-round playoff loss to Detroit.[22][23]

NHL star

The 1942–43 season was Bouchard's breakthrough year as he finished leading all Canadien defencemen in points[24] and was key to the Canadiens' first season in several years without losing more games than they won. They finished in fourth place with a respectable 19 wins and 19 losses with 12 ties. Although they lost in the first round of the playoffs, the team was building in the right direction.[25]

The 1943–44 season was Maurice Richard's first full season with the Canadiens. Richard was not just an exciting player to watch which served to increase attendance, but also had the offensive skills needed to turn the Canadiens into an exceptional team.[26] The Canadiens proceeded to dominate the regular season finishing well ahead of second-place Detroit. In the playoffs in the first round against Toronto, after losing the opening game, they won the next four straight to win the series. Then, in the final they swept Detroit in four games to win their first Stanley Cup in thirteen years. While the "Punch Line" of Richard, Blake and Lach provided the offensive power it was Bouchard and goal-tender Bill Durnan who kept the goals out. During the regular season Montreal had allowed only 109 goals, 68 less than second-place Detroit.[27] Bouchard along with Richard and Lach were named to the NHL All Stars' second team and goaltender Bill Durnan made the first team and won the Vezina.[28]

Bouchard had become one of the most reliable defencemen in the league. He would be named to the NHL First All Star team for the next three seasons. Bouchard won his second Stanley Cup in 1945–46.[6]

As physical on the ice as Bouchard was, he was also regarded as a clean player and only rarely participated in hockey fights. Immensely strong, most players avoided engaging him in fights and Bouchard more often would be the person to break up combatants.[2] However, it was a fight involving Bouchard which led to a significant change in the roll of referees. During the 1946–47 season Bouchard became involved in a prolonged and one-sided fight with Boston's Terry Reardon. Due to the fight, Clarence Campbell, president of the NHL, added to the duties of referees for the first time the responsibility of breaking up fights.[29]

For the 1947–48 season defenceman Doug Harvey joined the team. Within a couple years Harvey would become the best offensive-oriented defenceman in the NHL and he and Bouchard would form a long-time and very effective defensive pairing.[6] Whenever Harvey undertook one of the offensive rushes for which he became famous, he was confident in the knowledge that Bouchard was backing him up if he was to lose the puck.[3]

Leader and mentor

In 1948 Bouchard became the first Quebec born captain of the Canadiens, a position he retained for 8 years until his retirement. At the time of his retirement no player had served more years as captain of the Canadiens than Bouchard.[3] Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau, a team-mate of Bouchard for Beliveau's early years with the Canadiens, said Bouchard was the model for his time as captain in the 1960s.[6] Bouchard was a well-respected leader and played a role in supporting and mentoring the younger players.[21][30] Never afraid to speak up to management, in 1950 on Bouchard's recommendation to Selke to "give the kid a shot", Bernie Geoffrion was given a tryout and eventually joined the Canadiens.[6] Geoffrion won the Calder for rookie of the year and would be near the top of league scoring for years to come. Bouchard commenting on the fact that he was nominated for captain by his team-mates: "I don't agree with management nominating you. I can respond to players, not be a yes-man for the proprietor."[31]

He missed a large part of the 1948–49 season after a severe knee injury which threatened his career. Despite medical opinion that he may not be able to continue to play he trained hard and was able to strengthen the knee.[6] Although not playing to quite the same level prior to the injury, Bouchard was able to return to the Canadiens on a full-time basis.

In 1951 Bouchard was involved in a legal first. Bouchard was a defendent in a lawsuit brought by a Ranger fan who claimed he had struck him with his stick when he was waiving to a friend who was watching the game on TV. Bouchard said the fan had raised his fist towards Canadien player who was being taken off the ice with an injury with and his stick hit him accidentally when he tried to ward off the blow. In what may have been the first time in legal history, evidence was taken during a trial from someone witnessing an event on a television as the fan's friend testified he'd seen Bouchard strike the blow. Bouchard won the case when Otis Guernsey, president of Abercrombie and Fitch, who was a the game testified he heard "vile language" and saw the fan raise his fist and not waive.[32][33]

On Feb. 28, 1953 the Canadiens had a "Bouchard Night at the Forum". Bouchard was honoured in a ceremony during the second intermission in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. It was presided over by Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde and broadcast nationally live over the CBC. Among the gifts Bouchard received was a Buick automobile which was driven out onto the ice. The organizer's plan was to have Bouchard drive off in the car at the end of the ceremony. However, sitting in the car Bouchard discovered the keys were missing. To the roar of the crown Ted Lindsay, captain of the Wings, returned the keys he had stolen.[12][34]

On March 22, 1953 while Bouchard was travelling to Detroit for the last game of the season, his restaurant Chez Butch Boucard was gutted by a fire started in a basement at 3:22am soon after employees and patrons had left.[35]

In 1952–53, Montreal and Detroit battled for first place with Detroit coming out on top by the end of the season. In the first round of the playoffs the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings were upset by the Boston Bruins and Montreal won a close seven game series over Chicago. The Canadiens then defeated Boston in five games and Bouchard won his third Stanley Cup.[36]

Eventually injuries began to take their toll and at the conclusion of the 1954–55 season he considered retirement. Toe Blake, who had taken over as coach, talked him into playing one more season to assist the younger players. Blake was beginning a career as coach which was to be so successful it would eventually overshadow his years as a player. However, it was Bouchard, recognizing Blake's value as a "player's-coach", who used his leadership to ease the transition and encourage Blake's acceptance by the Canadien players.[30] As the season progressed, due to physical problems Bouchard was forced to miss the last half of the season and the playoffs. However, in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup final against Detroit, Blake dressed Bouchard. As the final seconds counted down, with Montreal up 3–1, Blake put Bouchard on the ice and he was able to end his career with one more Stanley Cup celebration.[6]

A reporter once asked the canny Bouchard what he thought of coaching methods in the NHL. He replied, "Hockey should be more like football, with a coach for the defence, one for the offence and maybe one for the goalies."[37] Indicative of his usual foresight it would be many years before such practices would become common in the NHL.[38][39]

Retirement from hockey

In retirement Bouchard remained as active as he was during his NHL career. He soon received coaching offers, but his business interests prevented him from leaving Montreal.[40] Bouchard owned a popular restaurant Chez Émile Bouchard which operated for many years in Montreal,[21] was president of the Montreal Royals Triple-A baseball club, elected to the Longueuil municipal council, on the board of directors of Ste. Jeanne-d'Arc Hospital, president of the Metropolitan Junior "A" Hockey League among other activities.[2][6]

Bouchard was unafraid to speak his mind when he felt the occasion demanded. In 1957 after an International League game in Toronto between his Montreal Royals and the Maple Leafs baseball team President Bouchard complained about Toronto's excessive conference trips to the mound. He called the Leafs "showspoilers" and then said, for the entire press room to hear, "They're a lot of punks, just like in hockey!"[41]

Bouchard was a tough opponent even outside of hockey. When the Mafia of the day in Montreal attempted to intimidate him into hiring their people for his restaurant, Bouchard invited the head man to Chez Butch Bouchard for dinner. Bouchard's wife, Marie-Claire, recalled he told them, "Il lui a dit over my dead body. Je n'embaucherai jamais un de tes hommes." which translates "Over my dead body, I will never hire one of your men."[42]


In 1947 Butch Bouchard married Marie-Claire Macbeth. They have five children, Emile Jr., Jean, Michel, Pierre and Susan.[5][8]

In the 1970s his son Pierre Bouchard, also a defenceman, played for the Montreal Canadiens. While father Émile participated in the birth of the Montreal Canadiens' dynasty, thirty years later son Pierre played a part in continuing the Canadien dynasty into the 1970s. With Butch's four and Pierre's five they have the distinction of winning the most Stanley Cups of any father-son combination in NHL history. Bobby and Brett Hull are the only other father and son to have won the Cup.[3]

Honours and recognition

On June 18, 2008, Émile Bouchard received the National Order of Quebec (L'Ordre national du Québec) presented to him by the Premier of Quebec Jean Charest. It is one of the most prestigious honours in Quebec.[2][43][44]

On October 15, 2008, the Montreal Canadiens celebrated their 100th season by unveiling the Ring of Honour, an exhibit along the wall of the upper deck of the Bell Centre, paying tribute to their 44 players and 10 builders who are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Bouchard along with Elmer Lach, the two oldest surviving members, were on hand to drop the ceremonial puck at centre ice.[45][46]

In 2008 a grass roots movement had begun to pressure Canadien management to retire Bouchard's #3. During the Quebec provincial election Independent candidate Kevin Côté even made one of his platforms to force Canadiens into retiring the number.[47] By March 2009 it reached the Quebec National Assembly where a motion was presented and carried "That the National Assembly support the steps taken and supported by the population of Québec in order that Montreal Canadians management retire the sweater of Émile "Butch" Bouchard eminent defenceman from 1941 to 1956."[48]

On December 4, 2009, as part of a 85 minute pre-game ceremony celebrating the Canadiens' 100th anniversary, Bouchard's No. 3 and Elmer Lach's No. 16 were retired. They become the 16th and 17th Canadien players to have their numbers retired.[49][50]

In 2009, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada "for his contributions to sports, particularly professional hockey, and for his commitment to his community".[51]

Awards and achievements

Career statistics

GP = Games played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; PIM = Penalty minutes; SC = Won Stanley Cup; n/a = not available

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1937–38 Verdun Maple Leafs MCJHL 2 0 0 0 2 7 2 1 3 10
1938–39 Verdun Maple Leafs MCJHL 9 1 1 2 20 10 0 2 2 12
1939–40 Verdun Maple Leafs MCJHL n/a
1940–41 Montreal Jr. Canadiens QSHL 31 2 8 10 60
1940–41 Providence Reds AHL 12 3 1 4 8 3 0 1 1 8
1941–42 Montreal Canadiens NHL 44 0 6 6 38 3 1 1 2 0
1942–43 Montreal Canadiens NHL 45 2 16 18 47 5 0 1 1 4
1943–44 Montreal Canadiens NHL 39 5 14 19 52 9 1 3 4 4 SC
1944–45 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 11 23 34 34 6 3 4 7 4
1945–46 Montreal Canadiens NHL 45 7 10 17 52 9 2 1 3 17 SC
1946–47 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 5 7 12 60 11 0 3 3 21
1947–48 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 4 6 10 78
1948–49 Montreal Canadiens NHL 27 3 3 6 42 7 0 0 0 6
1949–50 Montreal Canadiens NHL 69 1 7 8 88 5 0 2 2 2
1950–51 Montreal Canadiens NHL 52 3 10 13 80 11 1 1 2 2
1951–52 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 3 9 12 45 11 0 2 2 14
1952–53 Montreal Canadiens NHL 58 2 8 10 55 12 1 1 2 6 SC
1953–54 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 1 10 11 89 11 2 1 3 4
1954–55 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 2 15 17 81 12 0 1 1 37
1955–56 Montreal Canadiens NHL 36 0 0 0 22 1 0 0 0 0 SC
NHL totals 785 49 145 194 863 113 11 21 32 123

Sources: Total Hockey (p. 662),[10] Hockey-Reference.com,[52] Hockeydb.com[53]


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External links

Preceded by
Bill Durnan
Montreal Canadiens captain
Succeeded by
Maurice Richard


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