The Graduate is an American Hockey Blog feature that highlights a notable AHL alumnus, their career, and what makes them so special to AHL lore. It also happens to be the title of a 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman, which has been praised by the American Film Institute. These things are not related.
For most modern hockey fans, the lasting image of Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau includes a smattering of barbecue sauce, but the Anaheim Ducks head coach is an American Hockey League icon.
Boudreau, primarily a centre throughout his playing days, began his professional career in the 1975-76 season as a member of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association. Boudreau played a mere 30 games with the Fighting Saints, managing three goals and six helpers. The next year, Boudreau would make his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his inability to stick with the big club would lead to the beginning of an illustrious minor league career.
Sent to the Dallas Black Hawks of the Central Hockey League, Boudreau flourished, showing the first signs of what was to come. It was his first season in Dallas, 1976-77, when Gabby took the league by storm, putting up 71 points (37-34) under the tutelage of rookie CHL head coach Roger Neilson.
After his stellar CHL performance, Boudreau earned a shot at the NHL with the Leafs the following season. However, he would soon find himself back in Dallas. The next year, 1978-79, the Leafs cut ties with the CHL’s Black Hawks and moved their primary affiliation to New Brunswick, with the AHL’s Hawks.
In his first full season with the Hawks — Bruce would only play two games with the Leafs in 1979-80 — the centre put up 90 points on the strength of 36 goals and 54 assists, and finish in a tie for third in the league’s scoring race. Again, his performance in the AHL earned him a shot at the NHL, this time for 39 games, but in the 11 years following the 1980-81 campaign, Gabby would set foot on NHL ice for 23 more games as a player.
What followed was one of the greatest AHL careers in the history of the league. Boudreau would play for six AHL franchises — New Brunswick, St. Catherines Saints, Baltimore Skipjacks, Nova Scotia Oilers, Springfield Indians, Newmarket Saints, and the Adirondack Red Wings — and amass 799 points.
Of the many highlights of Boudreau’s AHL performances, what stick out most are his 122 point, 50 goal season with St. Catherines in 1982-83, and his 1987-88 season where he amassed 116 points and was awarded the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. Boudreau also appeared in four playoff games for the 1991-92 Adirondack Red Wings, helping the team win its fourth Calder Cup in eleven seasons.
Boudreau sits 16th among the all-time goal scorers in the AHL (316), 13th in assists (483), and 12th in points (799).
After his playing career ended, Boudreau would go on to coach around the minor leagues, most notably winning the Calder Cup in 2005-06 with the Hershey Bears before moving on to greener pastures with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Boudreau, AHL great and NHL head coach, was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2009.