Local sports stories matter. Local sports stories have a way of connecting us all.
Being close to the game from a scouting and broadcasting perspective has undoubtedly led to some amazing stories to share from a writing perspective.
I truly feel blessed to be behind the scenes and to have fans, general managers, players, their families, coaches and referees reach out to me to share a diverse cross-section of journey’s in the game.
One of my fondest memories was Christian Boudreau’s final game in the QMJHL.
The date was March 1st, 2019. It will be a day that I won’t forget for a long, long time. The events leading up to that day are the most memorable for me.
A few years earlier Rogers TV were doing a game at the Coliseum when word got out that it was Andre Dupuis’ final game in the Q. I actually interviewed Dupuis before that game. It was an amazing feeling being a very small part of his final QMJHL game.
Fast forward to 2019.
You see Dupuis and Boudreau refereed my high school hockey games. You could say we shared the same ice coming up through the ranks. Even back then you could see their passion for the game and profession. The game of hockey has an incredible way of connecting all of us along the way. The refereeing fraternity is a very guarded and loyal one, only select few ever get to experience what life is like in the QMJHL.
The constant pressure, scrutiny, attention and intensity can be crippling at times for any official.
Those experiences are shared. From the good, the bad and the ugly, every single one of “the stripes” have each other’s back. The role that “the stripes” play in the game we all love is truly extraordinary. You see that’s one of the main reasons I felt so honoured and blessed to be able to showcase Dupuis and Boudreau’s final game.
The media and the rest of the hockey world for that matter always seem to forget or criticize “the Stripes” fraternity.
Those that wear “the stripes” have come to accept that as common place.
They understand their role with in the game. No one ever hears their side of the story. No one ever understands their side of the story. Trust me, they are all a very special breed. It takes a monumental athlete and person to don the stripes. Their integrity, class and professionalism are truly off the charts.
It takes courage to the wear “the stripes” especially for as long as Dupuis and Boudreau patrolled the ice. Boudreau and Dupuis knew and trusted me to share their story, which means the world to me.
Local sports stories matter, they have a unique way of connecting us all. Local sports stories are always the most memorable.
Happy Birthday Christian, Thanks for allowing me to share in your amazing journey in the game.
One Last Time: Originally Published on February 27, 2019
For twenty-one years Christian Boudreau has shared the ice with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s best, and future National Hockey League stars.
After over 600 games in the league, Boudreau will be lacing up them up and throwing on the stripes one last time Friday night at Moncton, New Brunswick’s Avenir Centre.
“It’s bittersweet for it to come to an end,” Boudreau said.
“There’s been a lot time invested, devotion and energy, but most importantly a lot of sacrifice made for the family, especially the kids,” admitted Boudreau.
“Even though everyone has been so supportive over the years, it’s time to invest in them now.”
Boudreau’s path to the QMJHL started in the Shediac Minor Hockey Association where he first donned the stripes.
For more than three decades Boudreau has been associated with the game and feels now is the perfect time to pass the torch. “It’s time for a young kid to have the same opportunity I had when I first started.”
The long-time official is quick to credit his time in the QMJHL for helping him grow as a linesman and as a person.
“I had the opportunity over the years to better myself as an individual and learn how to deal with conflict and pressure. You are always under constant supervision, I can thank refereeing, especially the ‘Q’ for making me a better sales person in my everyday job.”
For Boudreau the QMJHL fraternity took on a much deeper meaning.
“I’ve made a lot friendships over the years with players, coaching staff and management. Twenty-one years is a long time to invest in an activity, but it became a lot more to me than just an activity it basically became an extended family.”
The game has a unique way of teaching all of life’s important lessons. “I’ve always tried to teach my kids that if you are going to put time in on something you have to be all in, so this is no different than us starting out at eighteen or nineteen,” stressed Boudreau.
Boudreau’s passion for the game has always been the driving force behind his journey wearing the stripes. Nevertheless, like so many officials before him Boudreau had amazing mentors along the way.
The late great Romeo LeBlanc, Larry “Magic” Christian, Bobby Jones, Tim Skinner, Guy Pellerin and Andre Dupuis all played a vital role in Boudreau’s progression and development in the game.
“Andre, Guy and I came up through Shediac Minor hockey together and it was those two guys that brought me to Moncton to referee because there were more opportunities and better leagues to officiate.”
The late Ron Smyth took Boudreau under his wing upon his arrival to the Hub City and well the rest is history.
“Ron exposed me to a lot of different levels of hockey, he took the time to mentor and coached me along the way. He pushed me to an extent where I could see what I was made of,” admitted Boudreau.
From former American Hockey League officials to countless others along the way Boudreau is extremely grateful for all the people that showed him the ropes and the finer points of the game.
“Christian has great passion for the game and always wanted to get better every time out,” said Larry “Magic” Christian.
“He always had great work ethic, knowledge of the rules and was a great mentor for younger officials,” Christian added.
Boudreau was always open to receive constructive feedback in order to grow and has always felt comfortable sharing his knowledge and experience. “Young officials from Minor hockey have a lot questions, like what do I need to do or work on, can you come supervise me, but the other side of that coin are guys like Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert and Jesse Marquis,” explained Boudreau.
“When all those guys started refereeing in the league we were in a sense their veterans and mentors,” confessed Boudreau.
“Chris was the guy that taught me about after the whistle prevention,” said current QMJHL linesman Matt Hicks.
Hicks fondly remembers working his first ever “Q” game with Boudreau.
“Chris looked at me and said, ‘you skate a hundred miles an hour to get to two guys, I’ll take my time and look after the other eight on the ice.’
“That really hit home with me after the whistle awareness and knowing the battles between players and games within the game,” Hicks said.
“Chris is always available to talk about a situation and provide insight and guidance, he’s been a real mentor to me. I’ll be both sad to see him go, but proud of his career,” admitted Hicks.
“It feels good to have that in your back pocket that younger officials and QMJHL guys alike feel comfortable enough to share with you,” said Boudreau.
“The game as changed over the years, you’re under constant supervision, it’s a big business, and everyone is trying to make a career out of it, players including coaching staff.”
“For some of us to be around for two decades, we have seen where the league was versus where it is today, it’s a matter of what can we say or do in order for young officials in the league to keep their head straight to make sure they stay on the right path.”
So what was it like sharing the ice with hockey’s brightest future stars? “Sometimes those conversations are better left unsaid,” Boudreau said jokingly.
Boudreau has fond memories of #87’s final tour around the QMJHL. “Being a veteran of the game whether your Sidney Crosby or anyone else if you come into a face-off you better line up and if you don’t line up your not staying in,” Boudreau said.
“Sidney and I had a few choice words of wisdom in the playoffs that year, I stuck to my guns.”
“The following period he comes back in and bends over and said, ‘I know I’m Sidney Crosby, and I know there’s a lot of pressure on me, but I will put myself in very squarely, can you please not kick me out of the face-off.’ Boudreau was quick to reply. “I said no problem, if you listen and do what everyone else does, it doesn’t matter if your Sidney or the fourth liner it doesn’t really matter.”
Boudreau and Crosby’s face-off feud had ended.
“There’s a lot of pressure on players over the years, I understand that,” Boudreau said.
“Everything is monitored and how many face-offs do they win, but at the end of the day in our shoes, it doesn’t matter if it’s a superstar or a fourth liner, you square up and you put your stick down and that’s it.”
For Boudreau it was all about communicating and building a professional working relationship with every player in the league. “That’s one thing I tell all young officials coming up in the game, don’t be afraid to talk to players and the future superstars. If you make a mistake, tell them, you get a lot more respect doing that then not,” admitted Boudreau.
So what fuelled Christian Boudreau for all those years?
That’s easy, the next game, the next big game and the push to officiate on junior hockey’s largest stage the Memorial Cup.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to do two Memorial Cups and seven or eight President Cup Championships, so the further you go in the Playoffs, the more intense it gets and being part of those Memorial Cups I would have to say that’s probably the biggest and best memory of my career,” Boudreau said.
Friday night will be an emotional night for Boudreau, his family, but also his extended family, the QMJHL.
“I’m going to miss the friendships the most,” he said. That feeling will undoubtedly be shared, one last time.