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Frank Boucher
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1958
Frank Boucher.jpg
Boucher with the Ottawa Munitions.
Born (1901-10-07)October 7, 1901
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Died December 12, 1977(1977-12-12) (aged 76)
Kemptville, Ontario, Canada
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 175 lb (79 kg; 12 st 7 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for Ottawa Senators
Vancouver Maroons
New York Rangers
Playing career 1921–1938

François Xavier Boucher (October 7, 1901 – December 12, 1977) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player and executive. Boucher played the forward position for the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers in the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Vancouver Maroons in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) between 1921 and 1938, and again from 1943 to 1944. Boucher later became coach and the general manager of the New York Rangers between 1939 and 1955. He won the Stanley Cup three times, all with the Rangers: in 1928 and 1933 as a player, and in 1940 as the coach. Boucher was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. Three of his brothers also played in the NHL, including Georges, who was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Personal information

Tom Boucher, Ottawa College
Frank's father Tom Boucher while a rugby football player at Ottawa College in the 1890s.

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1901, Boucher was the youngest son in a family of six sons and two daughters born to Tom Boucher and Annie Carroll. His paternal grandfather, Antoine Boucher was French, while his other grandparents were of Irish descent. Frank Boucher was one of four brothers who played in the NHL. His brother, Georges "Buck" Boucher, played on the Ottawa Senators dynasty of the 1920s, winning four Stanley Cups. Brothers Bobby and Billy also played in the NHL. There were two other brothers, Carroll and Joseph, and two sisters, Irene and Lily. The family lived in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood of Ottawa.

Frank's nephew, Sgt. Frank Boucher, son of Georges, was the head coach of Canada's 1948 Olympic gold medal winning ice hockey team - the Ottawa RCAF Flyers.

Early life

Frank Boucher inherited some of his athletic ability from his father Tom, who played rugby football both for Ottawa College and for the Ottawa Rough Riders, winning Canadian championships in 1894, 1896, 1897 and 1901, playing alongside Tom "King" Clancy, whose son was the famous hockey player King Clancy. Boucher recalls receiving his first pair of skates at age six for Christmas, double-runners which he promptly fell from and never used again. Frank and the rest of the brothers would play games on outdoor rinks, including rinks on the Rideau River and for local New Edinburgh teams. To pay for team equipment, the team members would canvass the neighbourhood, which included Rideau Hall, where Boucher would first meet Lady Byng. Boucher attended Crichton Public School but dropped out of school at age thirteen. He took a job as an office boy with the federal government munitions department for the duration of World War I. After World War I, Boucher joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and moved west.

Hockey career

While in Lethbridge working with the Mounties, Boucher played for the Lethbridge Vets along with Mountie teams he organized. After a year working in Banff, Alberta, Frank returned home to play for the Ottawa Senators for the 1921–22 season, where he would play with his brother George. Because he had played senior hockey out west, his playing rights belonged to the PCHA, but he was allowed to play the season for Ottawa on condition he then play for the Vancouver Maroons in following seasons. In a twist of fate, he joined the Stanley Cup champions but the Senators lost the NHL title that year to the Toronto St. Pats, who would defeat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.

Frank Boucher Vancouver Maroons
Boucher with the Vancouver Maroons in 1922–23.

Boucher played for the Maroons until 1926. The Maroons would play in the 1923 Stanley Cup Final against the Senators, losing 3-2. His brother George still played for the Senators. That series also featured brothers Cy and Corbett Denneny playing against each other, marking the first time two different sets of brothers faced each other in an NHL or Big Four championship series.

The Maroons played in the 1924 Stanley Cup playoffs against Montreal, who had the other Boucher brothers Billy and Bob, losing to the Canadiens in a best-of-three series 2–0. A highlight of the second game, a Maroons 2–1 loss, was that all goals were scored by the Bouchers, two by Billy and one by Frank.

In 1926, when the western league dissolved, his rights were sold to the Boston Bruins. He never played for the Bruins as Conn Smythe then paid the Bruins $1500 for Boucher, on the advice of Bill Cook, whom he'd played against out west, but would play with during his time with the Rangers. Boucher became a member of the original New York Rangers team.

Boucher played for the Rangers until he retired in 1937–38. Boucher centered the famous Bread Line with the brothers Bill and Bun Cook, and together they helped the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1928 and 1933, also reaching the Finals in 1932.

Frank was not only a brilliant forward, but was also one of the game's classiest. Lady Byng, wife of Viscount Byng, the Governor-General of Canada, donated a trophy to be awarded to the NHL's "most gentlemanly player." While playing for the New York Rangers, Boucher won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy seven times in eight years. He was then given the trophy outright, and Lady Byng donated another trophy to the NHL.

The Rangers hired him to coach the New York Rovers, a minor-league team that also played at Madison Square Garden, as his apprenticeship to coaching the Rangers. When general manager Lester Patrick made the decision to retire from coaching prior to the 1939–40 season, he hired Boucher, who led his Ranger club to the last Stanley Cup. The franchise would be in existence for 68 seasons before they won a Cup without Boucher being directly involved.

After finishing first in the NHL's regular season in 1942, the Rangers lost in the playoffs to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Soon they became victims of the military draft of World War II and went into a steep decline. In 1943–44 NHL season the New York Rangers were so bad that Boucher came out of retirement for 15 games to play where he recorded 14 points; at age 42, he was the oldest position player ever to play in the NHL, a record he held until surpassed by Doug Harvey in 1968. The Rangers finished the 50 game season with only 6 wins. Between appearances in 1940 and 1972 they reached the Stanley Cup Finals only once.

Boucher helped introduce the centre red line to the ice hockey rink during the 1943–44 season.

Boucher and Ottawa District Hockey Association executive Cecil Duncan collaborated on experiments to change the ice hockey rules. In January 1937, they tried a single blue-line at centre ice to cut down on the number of offside infractions in a game. During the 1943–44 NHL season, Boucher and Duncan introduced the centre ice red line to the hockey rink, in an effort to open up the game and allow the defending team to pass the puck out of their own zone and counter-attack quicker.

When Patrick retired, Frank took over as general manager. He got the Rangers into the playoffs in 1947–48 with his trade to get Buddy O'Connor and Frank Eddolls. He stepped down from coaching to concentrate on his manager's job and hired Lynn Patrick, Lester's son and an ex-teammate, to coach the Rangers, and Lynn came very close to winning the Stanley Cup in 1950, proving Boucher astute in hiring him as coach. But the Rangers were an aging team, and eroded. Lynn Patrick resigned to go to Boston, and neither Neil Colville nor Bill Cook, also former teammates of Boucher's, could get the Rangers into the playoffs. General John Kilpatrick, the Rangers' owner, thought about replacing Boucher, but he held off.

During the 1945–46 season, Boucher became the first coach to use two goalies regularly. Alternating Charlie Rayner and Jim Henry every game, and later, every four to six minutes, he proved the usefulness of having two goalies.

Frank went back behind the bench in 1953–54, but could not get the Rangers into the playoffs. He then hired Muzz Patrick, another son of Lester and ex-teammate, to coach the team, but the Rangers won only 17 games and missed the playoffs again. So General Kilpatrick had a talk with Frank and reluctantly expressed that Frank could not build the Rangers into a winner, and recommended Frank resign as general manager. Frank thought it over, realizing that it was better than being fired. He then typed his resignation and handed it in to the General, ending his 29-year association with the Rangers.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958. In 1998, he was ranked number 61 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. His uniform number 7 hangs in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, although it was retired for a later Ranger, Rod Gilbert.

Boucher served as commissioner of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League from 1959 to 1966. He proposed to establish a junior hockey league of the best twelve teams in Canada sponsored by the NHL, and to compete for a trophy at a higher tier than the Memorial Cup. Canadian Amateur Hockey Association president Art Potter and the resolutions committee were against increasing NHL influence into amateur hockey in Canada and declined to present the proposal at the semi-annual meeting. Boucher and team owners in Saskatchewan and Manitoba accused Potter and the CAHA of disregarding their concerns and favouring the Edmonton Oil Kings. Boucher threatened to withdraw the SJHL from the Memorial Cup playoffs, due to the "unfair domination of western junior hockey by the Edmonton Oil Kings", since they had the pick of all the players from Alberta and used loopholes in rules to import stronger players.

In 1974, Boucher wrote When the Rangers Were Young, a book about his experiences with the old-time Broadway Blueshirts, giving him one last moment of fame during his lifetime. He died of cancer on December 12, 1977, in the town of Kemptville, Ontario, near Ottawa, at the age of 76.

In the 2009 book 100 Ranger Greats, the authors ranked Boucher at No. 9 all-time of the 901 New York Rangers who had played during the team's first 82 seasons.

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1916–17 Ottawa New Edinburghs OCJHL 9 11 0 11 2 6 0 6
1917–18 Ottawa New Edinburghs OCJHL 4 1 0 1 0
1917–18 Ottawa Munitions OCHL 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
1918–19 Ottawa New Edinburghs OCHL 7 1 2 3 5
1919–20 Lethbridge Vets ASHL
1919–20 Lethbridge Vets Al-Cup 1 1 0 1 0
1920–21 Banff RMSHL
1921–22 Ottawa Senators NHL 24 8 2 10 4 1 0 0 0 0
1922–23 Vancouver Maroons PCHA 28 11 9 20 2 2 0 1 1 2
1922–23 Vancouver Maroons St-Cup 4 2 0 2 0
1923–24 Vancouver Maroons PCHA 28 15 5 20 10 2 1 0 1 0
1923–24 Vancouver Maroons West-P 3 1 0 1 0
1923–24 Vancouver Maroons St-Cup 2 2 1 3 2
1924–25 Vancouver Maroons WCHL 27 16 12 28 6
1925–26 Vancouver Maroons WHL 29 15 7 22 14
1926–27 New York Rangers NHL 44 13 15 28 17 2 0 0 0 4
1927–28 New York Rangers NHL 44 23 12 35 15 9 7 3 10 2
1928–29 New York Rangers NHL 44 10 16 26 8 6 1 0 1 0
1929–30 New York Rangers NHL 42 26 36 62 16 3 1 1 2 0
1930–31 New York Rangers NHL 44 12 27 39 20 4 0 2 2 0
1931–32 New York Rangers NHL 48 12 23 35 18 7 3 6 9 0
1932–33 New York Rangers NHL 46 7 28 35 4 8 2 2 4 6
1933–34 New York Rangers NHL 48 14 30 44 4 2 0 0 0 0
1934–35 New York Rangers NHL 48 13 32 45 2 4 0 3 3 0
1935–36 New York Rangers NHL 48 11 18 29 2
1936–37 New York Rangers NHL 44 7 13 20 5 9 2 3 5 0
1937–38 New York Rangers NHL 18 0 1 1 2
1943–44 New York Rangers NHL 15 4 10 14 2
PCHA totals 57 26 14 40 12 4 1 1 2 2
WCHL/WHL totals 56 31 19 50 20
NHL totals 557 160 263 423 119 55 16 20 36 12

Coaching record

Team Year Regular season Post season
G W L T Pts Division rank Result
New York Rangers 1939–40 48 27 11 10 64 2nd in NHL Won Stanley Cup
New York Rangers 1940–41 48 21 19 8 50 4th in NHL Lost in quarter-finals
New York Rangers 1941–42 48 29 17 2 60 1st in NHL Lost in semi-finals
New York Rangers 1942–43 50 11 31 8 30 6th in NHL
New York Rangers 1943–44 50 6 39 5 17 6th in NHL
New York Rangers 1944–45 50 11 29 10 32 6th in NHL
New York Rangers 1945–46 50 13 28 9 35 6th in NHL
New York Rangers 1946–47 60 22 32 6 50 5th in NHL
New York Rangers 1947–48 60 21 26 13 55 4th in NHL Lost in semi-finals
New York Rangers 1948–49 23 6 11 6 18 6th in NHL Resigned
New York Rangers 1953–54 40 14 20 6 34 5th in NHL Resigned
Total 527 181 263 83 445
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