The favorite son of Warroad, Minn., an NHL Hall of Famer, provides a thoroughly warm and engaging account of what it was like reaching for the highest echelons of professional hockey and what he found once he arrived.
Long before an opposing player from the Boston Bruins effectively ended his NHL career with a stick to the eye in 1975, Henry Boucha dedicated his life to the coldest game on Earth. This is Boucha’s personal, affecting story of stuffing oversized ice skates with newspaper and using homemade hockey sticks to bat around crushed soda cans until his young ears literally almost fell off from frostbite. “I can close my eyes and see it as if it was yesterday—a bright, crisp, clear night with a million stars shining down on the Warrroad River,” he recalls, “and the streetlights glistening on the ice as you glided around, and the sounds of your steel blades on the ice as you skated.” The purity of such transcendental moments is rendered all the more sublime when juxtaposed with the ugly racism and personal tragedies that also profoundly impacted Boucha, a Native American. Despite those magical times on the ice, he was often maligned, marginalized and made to feel inferior because of his proud heritage. A tragic series of devastating house fires also claimed the lives of some of the dearest people in the young hockey star’s life. Nevertheless, he persevered, steadily rising through the ranks of amateur hockey, absorbing the wonder of it all as he went on to win a spot on the 1972 Silver Medal U.S. Olympic hockey team. After that, it didn’t take long for the NHL to come calling. However, the 20-year-old quickly realized that the dream of playing for his favorite NHL team was a lot different than reality. Paradoxically, at the height of his professional career, young Boucha found himself lonely and depressed, with his marriage to his childhood sweetheart sinking fast. Meanwhile, the NHL of the 1970s that Boucha—the Detroit Red Wings’ Rookie of the Year for the 1972–73 season—describes was a rough-and-tumble, egocentric assemblage of personalities, where individual stats trumped team victories and helmets only impeded the flow of impressive manes.
A compelling sports memoir from an intriguing athlete with a lot on his mind and even more in his heart.