A member of one of hockey's best known families, George "Buck" Boucher was a stellar defenceman during a professional career that spanned two decades. Although he wasn't blessed with lightning speed, his proficient stickhandling and competitive zeal assured his status among the NHL's best.
Born August 17, 1895, Buck Boucher was the eldest brother of four who would find their way to the NHL. Billy was born in 1899, Frank in 1901 and Bobby in 1904. Like the rest of the Bouchers, Buck gained valuable training in his hometown. He gained valuable training in the Ottawa City League with the Aberdeens and the New Edinburghs before embarking on a professional career in 1915 with the hometown Senators of the National Hockey Association. Boucher remained with the franchise when it became one of the founding members of the National Hockey League in 1917. In Ottawa, he was partnered with King Clancy to form one of the toughest, most effective defence duos in the league. In fact, Boucher helped nurture the young Clancy from his first days with Ottawa and contributed significantly to the Senators' four Stanley Cup triumphs in 1920, 1921, 1923, and 1927.
During the latter stages of the 1928-29 schedule, the Senators were in the midst of a struggle to hold on to a playoff spot. Boucher felt the harsh criticism of impatient fans at this time. His effectiveness as a player had decreased somewhat, but his desire and sense of pride were still strong. Ottawa owner Frank Ahearn, a players' owner if there ever was one, couldn't bear to see one of his most dedicated soldiers suffer this way. Reluctantly, he approached other teams concerning possible interest in Boucher, and Eddie Gerard of the Montreal Maroons jumped at the opportunity to acquire a wily veteran who would stabilize his defence corps.
Boucher completed his NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1931-32 after they picked him up on waivers early in the season. His total of 120 goals in 449 regular-season games was a notable achievement in this era. Boucher's last professional work consisted of nine games with the Boston Cubs of the Can-Am league the following season.
The realm of coaching was the next step for Boucher. He earned his stripes as head coach of the 1930-31 Montreal Maroons. The team finished a respectable third in the Canadian Division but failed to qualify for the post-season. In 1932-33, he led the Boston Bruins' farm team, the Cubs, to the Can-Am league championship in his only year as the team's coach.
Boucher returned to NHL coaching with the Ottawa Senators in 1933-34, but the Great Depression took its toll on the once proud franchise, which finished in last place and was relocated to St. Louis as the Eagles. Boucher stayed on as coach for one final last season but the team's fortunes didn't improve in the American Midwest and it folded in 1935. Between 1935 and 1938, Boucher guided the Springfield Indians of the Can-Am circuit. This was followed by one-year placements with Noranda of the Gold Belt league and the Quebec Beavers of the Quebec Senior Hockey League before Boucher took a five-year sabbatical from the game.
Tommy Gorman had been the manager of the great Ottawa clubs that won four Stanley Cups in the 1920s. After the Senators folded, he oversaw the new Senators franchise in the Quebec Senior Hockey League. Prior to the 1946-47 season, Gorman persuaded Boucher to come out of retirement and coach his club. In 1949 they beat the Regina Capitals to claim the Allan Cup as Canadian Senior champions -- Boucher's first championship in 16 years of professional hockey.
Boucher was called in to assist with the player selection and training for the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Canadian representatives were the Ottawa RCAF Flyers. The team went on to post a 7-0-1 record while capturing the gold medal.
Following his Olympic involvement, Boucher was named head coach of the Boston Bruins in 1949 after Dit Clapper's unexpected retirement. His year behind the Bruins' bench was extremely trying. The club was short on talent and finished fifth in the six-team NHL standings. Their 22 wins over the 70-game schedule were largely attributable to the hard-working spirit of the often overmatched side. This work ethic was clearly instilled in the team by their coach. When the season was over, it became apparent that Boucher, although he didn't yet know it, was about to be dropped by the Bruins management.
In 1950-51, Boucher coached the Ottawa RCAF Flyers of the Quebec Senior Hockey League, then took another break before returning for one last assignment behind the bench of the Quebec Hockey League's Ottawa Senators. Boucher was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960 while battling throat cancer. In a moving ceremony, he was presented with his Hall of Fame insignia at his hospital bed. Three weeks later, after a courageous six-year battle, Boucher succumbed to his illness on October 17, 1960.