Former Dartmouth star continues career in pro hockey
By Ryan Karr, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Nick Boucher '03, a former four-year starting goalie for the Dartmouth men's hockey team, has continued his successful playing career beyond Dartmouth and entered into the professional ranks. After some tough luck begining his professional career in the NHL minor league system, Boucher has led the Tilburg Trappers of the Dutch Superliga and the Fort Wayne Komets of North America's International Hockey League to championships.
Boucher was drafted in the ninth round of the 2000 NHL Draft with the 260th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins after his freshman campaign between the posts for Dartmouth. After graduating from Dartmouth, Boucher was in the Penguins' farm system for a year and had what he considered one of his best years playing hockey. After the season, however, the 2004 NHL lockout was announced. As a result, the NHL players decided to play in the minor league system and forced recent draftees like Boucher out of the mix.
"The walk-out really hurt me, as it did a lot of players," Boucher explained. "You only have a small amount of time to make your mark and establish yourself as an NHL prospect. It's a tough sport, and my window of opportunity closed pretty quickly."
To continue playing competitive hockey, Boucher looked across the pond, ultimately landing in the United Kingdom for a few months before finding a better spot as the starting goalie for the Tilburg Trappers in Holland.
Making the change from playing in North America to playing in Europe was not easy. With lower league and team revenues in Europe, players must quickly learn to fend for themselves.
"For any guy going over to Europe for the first time, it's an eye-opener," Boucher said. "Over in Europe, you have to take care of yourself, unlike in North America. It was a big adjustment and something I wasn't completely prepared for."
Boucher's proclaimed lack of preparation failed to show on the ice, as Boucher helped the Trappers to a Superliga championship in the 2006-2007 season, goaltending in 29 games for Tilburg.
Boucher then left the Trappers for North America once more, landing a starting job for the Fort Wayne Komets of Indiana, an IHL juggernaut with one of the richest histories in professional hockey. The Komets franchise is the eighth-oldest worldwide, behind only the "Original Six" NHL teams -- Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston, Detroit and Chicago -- and the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
Furthermore, Boucher was happy to be back in North America.
"Fort Wayne takes care of its players and does a lot of little things to make it a great place to play," Boucher said. "They do really well financially and don't spare expenses."
Boucher had an outstanding season with the Komets, racking up a league-leading 24-2-4 record and a 2.32 goals-against-average during the regular season. He was named IHL's Goaltender of the Month for November, December and February.
But Boucher wasn't satisfied with his league-best regular season effort. In the playoffs, Boucher led all IHL goalies with a 2.09 goals-against-average while posting a 5-2-1 record in route to his second straight championship. This was Boucher's first IHL championship and the sixth all-time for the Komets.
The final series against the Port Huron Icehawks brought out the best in Boucher. With the Komets down in the series 3-1 after four games, Boucher earned three straight wins in front of the net for the Komets. In the series-clinching game seven that featured three overtimes, Boucher saved 34 of 36 shots to give his team a shot to win, and the Komets rewarded his efforts with a thrilling win for the championship.
"You play over a grueling schedule, and then to win in the final of the seven-game series, triple overtime, [the championship] was special," Boucher said. "There is nothing else like it."
Boucher maintains close ties to Dartmouth, where he still holds the program's records for single-season saves with 867, career saves with 2,803 and career wins with 50. Boucher follows the team closely, adding that he was excited to see Mike Devine '08 approach his career wins record.
"Devine was threatening my career win record, and records are meant to be broken, but they had a rough year," Boucher lamented.
Devine finished his career with 36 wins, good for third best all-time, just four short of current coach Bob Gaudet '81's 40 wins and 14 shy of Boucher's 50.
Boucher has returned to the College on several occasions to help with the Nike Field Hockey Camp, which occurs annually in Hanover.