If not for his nephew, Dan Bolduc may never have known about the list.
Recently, David Bolduc was reading the New England Hockey Journal. The magazine ranked the top 100 players from New England, and there, among the 50 honorable mentions, was his uncle’s name. Dan Bolduc, Waterville, Maine.
Hockey isn’t much of a part of Bolduc’s life these days. He hasn’t even been on skates in 10 years, he said. But there was a time when hockey was very much Bolduc’s life, and he played the game well.
“I’m quite honored to be on the list,” Bolduc said. “I’m very proud of being from the state of Maine. I’m proud to be the first Olympian and first professional from Maine.”
After playing his college hockey at Harvard, where he reached two Frozen Fours, Bolduc joined Team USA and played in the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Bolduc played 10 seasons of professional hockey. He played 88 games with the then-New England Whalers of the WHA, and 102 games with the Detroit Red Wings. In 102 NHL games, Bolduc scored 22 goals and had 19 assists.
Bolduc’s place among the best players from New England is well-deserved, and he’s in some excellent company. The top 10, in order, are Brian Leetch, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, John LeClair, Tom Barrasso, Bill Guerin, Chris Drury, Bobby Carpenter and Mike Eruzione.
Two Maine natives made the list. Along with Bolduc, there’s Mike McHugh, of Bowdoin. After a strong four-year career at the University of Maine in the 1980s, McHugh played professional hockey for 10 years, primarily in the high minor leagues. In 20 NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks, McHugh scored one goal.
Although raised in Maine, Eric Weinrich was born in Roanoke, Virginia, and not included. After playing at Maine, Weinrich was a member of Team USA at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and played in 1,157 NHL games.
Jesse Connolly, who compiled the list for the New England Hockey Journal, said Weinrich was one of the players who simply slipped through the cracks. The magazine intends to do a follow up to account for overlooked players such as Weinrich.
The list includes some of Bolduc’s contemporaries, men like Cap Raeder, Ralph Cox and Robbie Ftorek. Men Bolduc still considers good friends.
“You plod away and you go through life, and something like this comes along, and it’s like ‘Gosh.’ I’m like a kid again. It brings back memories,” Bolduc said.
To Bolduc, his hockey career revolves around 1976. That year was the springboard.
“Of all the years I played hockey, that was my favorite. 1976 was the best hockey year of my life,” Bolduc said.
Bolduc said he was a longshot to make the ‘76 Olympic team, but he became one of the team’s top players. In 60 games with Team USA, Bolduc had 41 goals and 31 assists, and was the fourth-highest scorer on the team.
“I was thrilled I made the team. I made the team as probably the 20th player. I worked my way up to when it came time for the Games, I felt very comfortable,” Bolduc said. “It’s the reason I received the opportunity, after the Olympics, to go pro.”
In six Olympic games in Innsbruck, Austria, Bolduc scored a pair of goals. The first, he thinks, was against Finland.
Against the powerful team from the Soviet Union, Bolduc had a breakaway chance on goalie Vladislav Tretiak, then considered the best goalie in the world, and one of the best goalies of all time.
“I gave him three of my best moves. He saved it like I never moved,” Bolduc said.
Later, when the Soviets played the Whalers in an exhibition game, Bolduc joined the exclusive fraternity of players who did score on Tretiak.
In 1979, Bolduc scored a goal in the Red Wings final game at the Detroit Olympia. In Detroit’s next game, he scored a goal in the first game at Joe Louis Arena.
Bolduc won the Calder Cup as AHL champion with Detroit’s top affiliate, the Adirondack Red Wings, in 1981. When he retied in 1985, Bolduc came home and joined John DelGiudice and Dick Young in starting the hockey program at Messalonskee High School. He moved on, went into business (Bolduc’s insurance agency, Higgins and Bolduc, is still in Oakland). He raised his family.
It’s been 10 years since Bolduc has been on skates. He doesn’t anticipate lacing them up ever again.
“I’m turning 60 in April,” Bolduc said. “I don’t need to get hurt.”
Bolduc earned his spot on this list of New England’s greatest players, and the argument can be made that he should have been higher. Bolduc is happy to be recognized. That his playing days more than 30 years ago have not been forgotten.
“Hockey has been very good to me,” Bolduc said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242