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Boudreau ready for return to Toronto

by Mike Ulmer

It was all there for Bruce Boudreau.

A native of St. Catharines, Ont., Boudreau was supposed to play for the storied team that drafted him, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boudreau, 51, returns to Toronto this weekend to coach the Canadian Team in the 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic. The event starts with the 2007 CCM AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday evening, and concludes with the annual AHL All-Star Game on Monday at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum.

He returns on a roll. Last season, Boudreau led the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup championship. He is looking forward to the two-day event.

“It’s the number one hockey market in the world,” Boudreau said. “I know they’ll put on a good show.”

Boudreau would have preferred to make his name with the Maple Leafs. After a stellar career with the OHA’s Toronto Marlboros, Boudreau struggled to stick with the club. He played 141 big-league games, 134 with the Leafs, and scored 28 NHL goals.

Boudreau knows he could have been an NHL player.

“I didn’t get what it meant to be a pro hockey player until after my third year,” he said. “I had some things against me, I wasn’t a big guy. But I know that when I was 21, 22, 23, I didn’t work as hard as I could have. Then you get labeled as either a prospect or veteran minor leaguer and that’s what happened to me.”

Boudreau was a star in the AHL, though, and remains ninth all-time in AHL scoring. His spectacular work behind the bench will sooner or later move him back to where he probably always belonged.

Barry Trotz, John Tortorella, Peter Laviolette, Bob Hartley, Jim Playfair and John Stevens are among the NHL coaches who once patrolled the bench of an AHL All-Star Classic, and all are now NHL head coaches.

But Boudreau has put his story to use in another way. If you have talent you don’t care to use, you will not enjoy playing for Bruce Boudreau.

“If a player brings talent but his work ethic isn’t what it should be, I will probably be harder on him, maybe harder than I should."

For All-Star ticket and event information, visit www.torontomarlies.com/news/07allstargame.asp