The Montreal Canadiens relied heavily on defenceman Butch Bouchard for 15 seasons. His robust play contributed to the Habs' defence while his alert passing was an integral component of the team's exemplary transitional game. Bouchard was a tall and strong competitor who used his physical attributes to advantage, although he was never known as a bully by his peers.
The Montreal native gained valuable amateur experience with the Verdun Maple Leafs and Montreal Junior Canadiens. Late in the 1940-41 season, the Canadiens sent him to the Providence Reds of the AHL for a 12-game trial. Bouchard exhibited tremendous poise and impressed coaches by registering three goals in his relatively short minor pro stint.
The young rearguard made his biggest impression at the Canadiens' training camp prior to the 1941-42 season. Unlike some of the veterans, and rare for the day, he was in top physical condition from the outset of the pre-season. He upset some of his teammates with his tough physical approach to practices. The Canadiens hadn't fared well in recent years and, if anything, they required an injection of youthful passion to help ignite the team again. This may have been one of Bouchard's most important contributions to the organization.
Bouchard developed into a tough stay-at-home defenceman whose physical game was a superb complement to defense partner Doug Harvey, one of the game's all-time great rushing blueliners. And it shouldn't be overlooked that Bouchard's exceptional hockey sense and accurate passing often started the offensive rushes for which the Canadiens became famous in the 1940s and 1950s. Physically, Bouchard was remarkably strong and often broke up fights on the ice by grabbing hold of each combatant with his enormous hands. To his credit, he never abused his powerful attributes and most opponents wisely avoided provoking him. In turn, he rarely fought.
On retiring, Bouchard turned his interests to amateur hockey in the Montreal area. While serving as one of the veterans of the Habs' blueline in the early 1950s, he had derived a great deal of satisfaction from tutoring younger defencemen, and Canadiens management considered him briefly to replace Dick Irvin as coach before settling on Toe Blake. Instead, he began working as a coach and president of junior teams in the province, which proved to be a logical and rewarding move for the recently retired star.
Prior to the 1968-69 season, he was named president of the Metropolitan Junior 'A' Hockey League. One of Bouchard's first ideas was the organization of an all-star game between his Metro League and the Quebec Provincial Junior circuit. The proceeds from such a contest would be placed in an "emergency fund" to be spent on players who were permanently hurt playing the game.
Butch Bouchard took his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. Forty-two years later, he was honoured with the National Order of Quebec. The order, which was presented to Bouchard by the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, is conferred upon men and women who are either residents of Quebec or were born there "for outstanding achievements in most fields." In 2009, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Emile "Butch" Bouchard died in 2012. He had been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
During his career, Butch was a member of four Stanley Cup championships. His son, Pierre, was a member of five such championships, making them the father-son duo with the most Stanley Cup wins. Incidentally, all were as members of the Montreal Canadiens.