Ever since he led the Washington Capitals out of the basement and to a Southeast Division title last season, head coach Bruce Boudreau has developed quite the following in the D.C. area, something that the Washington Post's gossip page got around to noting earlier this morning:
Six months ago, Kelly Black ran into the Washington Capitals head coach at Ballston Common Mall -- where the team holds public practices -- and invited him to join her kids and her best friend for lunch. "Can't right now," he told them. "Next time." Yesterday, 7-year-old Austin Black attended Caps practice with a hand-held sign: "Coach Boudreau: You promised lunch with me. Today is the day."
True to his word, the coach wound up springing for chicken nuggets and juice boxes for Austin and some friends at the mall's food court. Boudreau even stuck around for 45 minutes to talk hockey with the kids.
When you think about it, the story sounds an awful lot like what a minor league coach might do in a similar situation, which I guess isn't a surprise considering how long Boudreau toiled in the minors before finally getting a shot to coach in the NHL with the Caps.
I think there's a lesson here, one that James Gralian, better known as Tapeleg, passed along to me over the summer. As the economy weakens and NHL teams are faced with additional challenges when it comes to filling the arena, it might be a good idea to start adopting a number of the goofy, aggressive and effective marketing ideas that abound in minor league hockey.