Bruce Boudreau is out and about.
After an hourlong visit with friend and KFAN personality Paul Allen on Monday, he spent another hour or so at a Chick-fil-A in Eagan. He stopped there before driving home to Woodbury, fiddling with a straw wrapper as he refueled with a lemonade.
Initially, Boudreau wanted to avoid the public eye because he didn’t want sympathy — a “pity party,” as he called it — which is exactly what happened when he stepped out Sunday.
“The first place we went a guy came up to me and said, ‘I just wrote a letter to the Tribune,’ ” Boudreau said.
But he isn’t in hiding. He has no reason to be.
“I can hold my head high,” Boudreau said. “I gave it my best shot. It didn’t turn out.”
Boudreau on Friday was abruptly fired as head coach of the Wild — a decision by first-year General Manager Bill Guerin that surprised Boudreau and caught the rest of the NHL off guard.
Not only was the team enjoying one of its most successful runs of the season, going 7-3-1 over its previous 11 games, but the Wild was also knocking on the doorstep of a playoff spot with games in hand.
Since then, the team was shut out in interim coach Dean Evason’s debut and has fallen seven points back of a berth.
The aftermath has upended Boudreau’s rhythm, now that he’s doing laps around the coffee table instead of leading practices. But he’s still putting himself out there, opening up to the media about his dismissal and taking calls from the countless hockey people who have reached out.
“I knew the business that I was getting in to. I don’t want people feel sorry for me.”
This may be the end of the road with the Wild, but Boudreau is hopeful as he awaits his next journey.
“When you love the sport and nine times out of 10 you love the people that you work with, it’s pretty hard to get that out of your blood,” he said.
Boudreau was in his office Friday at Tria Rink in St. Paul hashing out the five areas he wanted the Wild to focus on at practice later that morning when Guerin walked in and closed the door.
“As soon as he did that, I went, ‘Uh oh,’ ” Boudreau said.
Guerin told him the team was making a change, and Boudreau asked if he was being fired. “Yes,” Guerin said. Seconds later, Boudreau walked out.
He had been fired before as an NHL coach, first in Washington and then in Anaheim — which preceded his hiring in Minnesota in 2016. But those exits he anticipated. This one he didn’t.
Being in the final season of a four-year contract and on his third GM, Boudreau didn’t expect to be re-signed, but because he wasn’t shown the door earlier under Guerin’s watch and was still in charge in mid-February, he figured he would finish out the season.
“I am so naive,” Boudreau said. “I always believe that nothing bad is going to happen.”
Getting fired made him feel like he failed, and the fact the entire world heard about it made him embarrassed. But Boudreau was also hurt and disappointed.
“You didn’t get to finish the fight you fought,” he said.
Boudreau didn’t watch the Wild’s first game without him, a 2-0 loss to the Sharks on Saturday, but he did check the players’ ice times afterward. Eventually, he’ll start tuning in; already, he’s staying up past his usual bedtime to catch the action around the NHL. He wants to remain in the know and visible.
“I don’t want people to forget about me,” he said.
The 65-year-old would like to continue coaching, and although the free-agent market is rife with options after an eye-popping eight in-season changes, Boudreau’s résumé is extraordinary. He boasts the second-best winning percentage (.576) among those who have coached more than 600 games, trailing only Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman (.581).
Overall, Boudreau has 567 victories (22nd in NHL history), 302 losses and 115 overtime losses after a 158-110-35 stint with the Wild that included setting the franchise record for points in a season (106) during his first year.
“I hope somebody will want me,” he said.
Known for rags-to-riches transformations and an outgoing personality that has made him one of hockey’s most popular faces behind the bench, Boudreau reached the 500-win plateau second-fastest in NHL history and is the first coach to guide three franchises to winning streaks of 11 or more games. He also has never finished a full season under .500 in terms of points percentage, and he prides himself on that competitiveness.
“I don’t feel old,” he said. “I don’t feel tired. I don’t feel exhausted when we play three games in four nights. I still get up and do all my stuff because doing it is what keeps you going, when I’m in there either writing lineups down or watching video.”
With less than two months to go in the regular season, it’s likely this will be the longest Boudreau is out of work since he became an NHL coach. He joined the Ducks two days after the Capitals let him go and was unemployed barely a week before the Wild scooped him up.
Teams interested in Boudreau’s services will have to seek permission from Guerin to interview him.
“Obviously, that hasn’t happened,” Boudreau said. “But that’s the way the process goes.”
A former Jack Adams winner as coach of the year, Boudreau is idling on 984 games. He was on track to hit 1,000 on March 17, and his daughter Kasey and grandchildren were going to be in town for the game.
Now, they’ve all made plans to visit an indoor water park in Wisconsin.
“You think you should be doing something,” Boudreau said of his newfound downtime. “I’m not really a home project kind of guy. It’s not like I sit there and say, ‘OK, give me the list. What do we gotta do? Fix the basement faucets?’ That’s not really me.”
Despite the sudden change in his routine, Boudreau is grateful for the Wild and understands the reality of his industry.
“I knew the business that I was getting in to,” he said. “I don’t want people feel sorry for me.”
In hindsight, there are in-game decisions he’d like to change, but he went with his gut and when his gut was right, no one questioned it.
He wishes he would have won more, but Boudreau reflects like a beaming parent on the growth of the team’s young players, and he wanted to help continue the success of such veterans as captain Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Eric Staal because of the respect he has for them. He also said he wishes the coaching staff the best.
And that’s what he’ll remember the most from his tenure with the Wild: the individuals, from his co-workers in the organization to the fans who supported him.
“The people here were so good to me and my family,” he said.
His legacy so far is chock-full of those bonds. But it’s what’s missing from his 45 years in pro hockey that fuels his motivation to keep coaching.
“I never won the Stanley Cup,” he said. “That’s the goal of my dreams and my life. I think it’s every hockey player’s dream. So many people who have been so good to me over the years, I can imagine the day with the Cup. I want them all there.”