EAGAN, Minn. – An ice rink wouldn’t have fared well on a muggy, 76-degree Monday, but Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau looked right at home on the field.
Boudreau visited TCO Performance Center for Verizon Vikings Training Camp and had the opportunity to spend time with Head Coach Mike Zimmer before the team’s afternoon practice.
Boudreau, who paired a black Wild polo with a purple Norseman baseball cap, arrived to Zimmer’s office with “all football questions.”
“How he conducts his business, how many people work for him … and what they do on a daily routine here with the Vikings,” Boudreau said. “I find it amazing, I really do.”
Boudreau told Zimmer, “I could never do what you’re doing.”
“There’s so many things going on,” he explained. “I was telling him, ‘When you look down there at that play sheet and there’s two minutes to go, I’d be panicking like crazy.’ They know their stuff, I know that.”
When it comes to hockey, Boudreau also knows his stuff.
A native of Toronto, Ontario, he played nearly all of his eight-season NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But what some may not know is that, en route from the minor leagues to the top shelf, Boudreau made a stop in Minnesota with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey League.
Boudreau played one season with the Fighting Saints before joining the Maple Leafs in 1976.
During his time in Minnesota, he followed the Vikings and their success under the direction of Head Coach Bud Grant. Boudreau had also followed Grant, along with Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp, during their respective careers in the Canadian Football League before they transitioned to the NFL.
Boudreau has fond memories of the Purple People Eaters era and still has a Vikings jersey he was gifted from the team that season when he accompanied his roommate for a promotional event.
“I watched the Vikings a lot,” he said. “Just the toughness of those guys when they had to play outdoors [at Met Stadium] all the time was pretty special.”
Interestingly, Boudreau’s hockey career has given him a connection to the Vikings current quarterback, as well.
Having coached the Washington Capitals from 2007-11, he closely followed the Redskins and kept an eye on Kirk Cousins when he was drafted 102nd overall in 2012. The young passer impressed Boudreau from afar as he bided his time for the starting role behind Robert Griffin III.
“[I noticed] the work ethic, and when he got a chance to get in, how he moved the ball, and you could see there was no feeling – to me, anyway – no feeling that he was satisfied with being a backup quarterback,” Boudreau said. “When you have that kind of character and drive, usually good things happen, and obviously something good has happened to him.”
The hockey coach took in the entirety of the Vikings practice, watching Cousins and company from the sideline and taking mental notes of Zimmer’s approach.
While there may not have been a penalty box, Boudreau appreciated the way Zimmer took the time to step in and make individual corrections when necessary rather than following up after a particular drill or rep.
“When they’re not doing what he wants them to do, he’s giving them a little bit of crap,” Boudreau pointed out. “It’s especially important early in the season. If you let it slide, then it’s hard to pull it back in later on, and I’m learning a lot today just from watching him.
View images from the Vikings training camp practice on August 12 at TCO Performance Center.
“You don’t just want to practice for the sake of practice,” Boudreau said. “You want to end up with a perfect practice, and that’s what makes good coaches, good coaches. You know why Zim’s a good coach.”
Boudreau joined the team for the post-practice huddle, re-connected with Zimmer and spent a few minutes chatting with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, whom he named when asked about his favorite Vikings.
“I love watching them all, but Kyle Rudolph is always special to watch,” Boudreau said.
And in case you’re wondering, Boudreau also has “a few” Wild players that he believes would do OK trading in skates for cleats for a day.
But if he had to pick just one? The Wild head coach would go with Eden Prairie native Nick Seeler.
“He’s got that tenacity and that grit. I think he would be a really good football player,” Boudreau said of Seeler. “We’ve got talented players who would be good skill position players, but coaches like those character, gritty guys. That’s why I would put him in.”