How many hockey players played the game since they could walk, practiced like crazy, went through minor hockey over many years, and ended up playing beer league or not playing at all? Most of us, right?
Not this guy.
Emile “Butch” Bouchard, the big defenceman who skated for the Habs from 1941 until 1956, pulled off something amazing, something I’ve thought about since I first read him tell it in Dick Irvin’s great book, “The Habs, An Oral History of the Montreal Canadiens, 1940-1980.”
I know it was the war years and many players were overseas, but still………
“I started skating in high school. I never had a pair of skates until I was sixteen. I always borrowed skates or rented skates. In those days you could rent a pair of skates for a night for five cents and play a game of hockey. Otherwise I would play in the park and I would be the goalie, without skates.
I went to a school called Le Plateau and I borrowed thirty-five dollars from my brother, Marcel. He was older than me and he was working. For the thirty-five dollars I bought skates, a pair of pads, a pair of pants, shoulder pads, and gloves. All that for thirty-five dollars in those days.
I played for our team at Le Plateau and the second year I was there Arthur Therrien came to me and asked if I could play junior for him with the Verdun team. So I played one year junior and two years senior.
After my second year in senior hockey I was with the Canadiens. So I made the NHL just four years after I had my first pair of skates.”