Pat Boutette's career in hockey was consistently marked by a great mental strength that allowed him to face down the odds that tended to jump onto his path from time to time. While skating for the London Knights of the OHA in 1969-70, he was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota. He accepted the offer in the midst of the usual warnings that such a path would never lead him to the NHL. But with his usual self-assurance, he went south to school
He put in three successful seasons on campus, becoming an All-American all-star in 1973. He elected to leave his studies one year shy of his degree in physical education to turn pro with the Maple Leafs' chain. He put in two years of apprenticeship with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the CHL where he honed the style of play that would earn him a long-term ticket in the NHL. Standing only 5' 8" high, Boutette knew that he'd have to become a durable mucker who would never back down from anyone, no matter how much bigger his rivals stood.
In 1975-76, he finally got the call to join the Leafs on a line with Dave "Tiger" Williams and Jack Valiquette. Short-guy jokes abounded in the dressing room as Boutette grew in his resolve to work hard and play aggressively against foes of all sizes. It was not uncommon to see him drop the gloves against such leviathans as the Isles' Clark Gillies or the Flyers' Don Saleski. He also managed to find the opposition's net with respectable third-line frequency.
Into his fifth season with the Leafs, Boutette was traded to the Hartford Whalers where, despite his short stay, he scored a personal-best 80 points in 80 games for the struggling Whalers. In 1981, he was dispatched to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he continued to play his aggressive game in the company of Paul Gardner and Rick Kehoe. The only difference between life as a Pen and as a Leaf was that, in Pittsburgh, he tended to score more while making life difficult for opponents along the boards.
By 1984-85, however, the rugged winger finally began to slow down. His numbers fell off as he was traded back to the Whalers where he played briefly before retiring from the Binghamton Whalers of the AHL at the close of the season.