Brian Boucher finished up the Flyers’ broadcast of Tuesday night’s game at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., caught a jet to Los Angeles for Wednesday night’s TNT coverage of the Kings-Seattle Kraken tilt, then was back in Philadelphia on Thursday night for the Predators game.
A lot of people might feel fatigue just reading about such a challenging itinerary.
But 6,000 air miles in just over 24 hours doesn’t bother the ex-Flyer goaltender, who took over for Keith Jones this year as NBC Philadelphia’s hockey analyst.
That’s because breaking down the action for Flyers fans has been Boucher’s “dream job” for years, even going back to his playing career.
The Flyers’ first-round (22nd) pick in the 1995 NHL Draft had a strong but somewhat sporadic career in Philadelphia and made stops in Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Phoenix (Arizona now) and San Jose along the way.
As he approached retirement, he gave serious thought to working behind the microphone and camera instead of in front of them.
He started on national TV with NBC, moved over to ESPN when NBC’s contract ran out, then switched to TNT when Jones decided to take over the reins of the Flyers organization as president of hockey operations. That transaction also opened up the local position.
Boucher, 46, couldn’t wait to get started.
“You just try and sleep when you can,” he said of the demanding schedule. “I’d rather be busy than not. When I was with NBC, we would do anywhere from 70 to 80 games a year, including playoffs. When the contract went to ESPN the last two years, my schedule was much lighter.
“It was tough to get into a groove because you weren’t as busy. When this situation came up, where Jonesy got the president’s job, he said we would like you to come over and do the Flyers. Because the Flyers are a heavy Tuesday-Thursday schedule, that was going to make it hard for me to do ESPN.”
So, in essence, Boucher changed national network jobs to accommodate his local schedule, right?
“If I was going to make it (the Flyers’ post) work, I had to find a way to do Wednesdays, which is TNT,” Boucher confirmed. “That’s what it would take to make the Flyers and national work.
“I knew it was going to be busy but I like it this way. I would rather do more games, see more teams, it makes you sharper when you do the TNT games. You see teams come through Philadelphia. It just gives you more ‘reps’ to get better and better.”
All of this manuevering really shows just how high the Flyers were on Boucher’s priority list.
“When ‘Jonesy’ mentioned the Flyers’ TV offer, it was a dream come true,” Boucher said. “When you leave an organization that you’ve been so close to, you feel like there’s a void. The national work is great, I’m so fortunate. But when you’re not a part of a team, you feel a void.
“I never thought there would be an opportunity with the Flyers. When it came up, it was like I have to make this work. I have to find a way to make my national schedule work to do the Flyers. The Flyers came first.”
Boucher got his television career started with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2013. There were some butterflies at first. But he established an open, honest style right off the bat.
He might not have been as nervous as he was for the start of Game 7 in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals against the New Jersey Devils (as a rookie no less), but there were still a few jitters when the camera’s red light went on.
Now he’s been in the business for quite some time and a lot of what he says on broadcasts comes from instinct.
“I knew I’d love to do Flyers’ TV when I was done with my career,” he said. “You are an extension of the team. In a lot of ways, you’re cheering for the team. I wanted to be a part of that. I don’t know if Jonesy ever knew it but I never thought the opportunity would present itself. I might have been the second-happiest person when he got that president’s job.”
Aside from Kevin Weekes, Henrik Lundqvist (the goalie Boucher beat in the famous 2010 shootout in Philly) and Darren Pang, there aren’t a whole lot of goaltenders in analysts’ positions at the national level. One would think there would be more, given the goalie is the most important position in the sport.
“We (goaltenders) observe the game quite a bit,” Boucher said. “As goalies, we have a pretty good seat as far as observation goes – how the team is playing. When I was playing, I knew almost every critical mistake that led to breakdowns that led to goals, including my own mistakes.
“When we would have post-game interviews, I would recall vividly the plays that took place. As a goalie, you’re just trained to be locked in at all times. When I was playing, I tried to prepare the same whether I was playing or not.”
Brian and his wife, Melissa, have a son, Tyler, now playing for the AHL Belleville Senators after getting taken 10th overall in the 2021 draft by Ottawa, and a daughter, Brianna, a freshman at Northeastern. Watching his son play in a skating position gives Boucher a better perspective on something besides goaltending.
“I’ve learned and appreciated that side of the game more,” Boucher said. “I’ve paid attention to his position. I’m starting to get a different lens on the game when it comes to the offensive side. It’s still a work in progress, I am still learning everyday. That’s why seeing more games can make you a better analyst.”
Having the Flyers enjoy a bit of a rebirth this season makes Boucher’s first year on the job a bit easier.
“I feel like I’m a liaison to the fan base and I don’t take that lightly,” he said. “I loved being a Flyer. I hated not being a Flyer the years I went away. I would always watch with envy and wish I could always come back.
“When I looked at the roster before the season, on the top nine there are a lot of good players. If they stay healthy, you can see this team could have some success. It’s more fun to analyze wins than losses.”