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Francois Xavier "Raffles" Boucher (October 7, 1902 – December 12, 1977) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward who played for the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers in the National Hockey League and the Vancouver Maroons in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Frank Boucher was one of four brothers who played in the NHL. His brother, George "Buck" Boucher, played on the Ottawa Senators dynasty of the 1920s, winning four Stanley Cups. Brothers Bobby and Billy also played in the league. Frank later became coach and the general manager of the New York Rangers.

Personal information

Born in Ottawamarker, Ontariomarker in 1901, Boucher was the youngest son in a family of six sons and two daughters born to Tom Boucher and Annie Carroll. His paternal grandfather, Antoine Boucher was French while his other grand-parents were Irish in descent. His brothers Billy, Bob and George ("Buck") would also become professional ice hockey players. There were two other brothers, Carroll and Joseph, and two sisters, Irene and Lily. The family lived in the "New Edinburgh" section of Ottawa.

Early life

Boucher inherited some of his athletic ability from his father Tom, who played rugby football for the Ottawa Rough Riders, winning Canadian championships in 1894, 1896, 1897 and 1901, playing alongside Tom "King" Clancy, whose son was the famous hockey player King Clancy. Boucher recalls receiving his first pair of skates at age six for Christmas, double-runners which he promptly fell from and never used again. Frank and the rest of the brothers would play games on outdoor rinks, including rinks on the Rideau River and for local New Edinburgh teams. To pay for team equipment, the team members would canvass the neighbourhood, which included Rideau Hall, where Boucher would first meet Lady Byng. Boucher attended Crichton Public School but dropped out of school at age thirteen. He took a job as an office boy with the federal government Munitions department for the duration of World War I. After World War I, Boucher joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Policemarker and moved west.

Hockey career

While in Lethbridge working with the Mounties, Boucher played for the Lethbridge Vets along with Mountie teams he organized. After a year working in Banff, Alberta, Frank returned home to play for the Ottawa Senators for the 1921–22 season, where he would play with his brother George. Because he had played senior hockey out west, his playing rights belonged to the PCHA, but he was allowed to play the season for Ottawa on condition he then play for the Vancouver Maroons in following seasons. In a twist of fate, he joined the Stanley Cup champions but the Senators lost the NHL title that year to the Toronto St. Pats, who would defeat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.

Boucher played for the Maroons until 1926. The Maroons would play in the 1923 Stanley Cup Final against the Senators, losing 3-2. His brother George still played for the Senators. The Maroons played in the 1924 Stanley Cup playoffs against Montreal, who had the other Boucher brothers Billy and Bob, losing to the Canadiens in a best-of-three series 2–0. A highlight was the 2–1 loss where all goals were scored by the Bouchers, two by Billy and one by Frank.

In 1926, when the western league dissolved, his rights were sold to the Boston Bruins. He never played for the Bruins as Conn Smythe then paid the Bruins $1500 for Boucher, on the advice of Bill Cook, whom he'd played against out west, but would play with during his time with the Rangers. Boucher became a member of the original New York Rangers team.

Boucher played for the Rangers until he retired in 1937–38. Boucher centered a line with the brothers Bill and Bun Cook, and together they helped the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1928 and 1933, also reaching the Finals in 1932.

Frank was not only a brilliant forward, but was also one of the game's classiest. Lady Byng, wife of Viscount Byng, the Governor-General of Canada, donated a trophy to be awarded to the NHL's "most gentlemanly player." While playing for the New York Rangers, Boucher won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy 7 times in 8 years. He was then given the trophy outright, and Lady Byng donated another trophy to the NHL.

The Rangers hired him to coach the New York Rovers, a minor-league team that also played at Madison Square Gardenmarker, as his apprenticeship to coaching the Rangers. When general manager Lester Patrick made the decision to retire from coaching prior to the 1939–40 season, he hired Boucher, who led his Ranger club to the last Stanley Cup. The franchise would be in existence for 68 seasons before they won a Cup without Boucher being directly involved.

After finishing first in the NHL's regular season in 1942, the Rangers lost in the Playoffs to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Soon they became victims of the military draft of World War II and went into a steep decline. In 1943–44 NHL season the New York Rangers were so bad that Boucher came out of retirement for 15 games to play where he recorded 14 points. The Rangers finished the 50 game season with only 6 wins. From 1940 to 1972 they reached the Stanley Cup Finals only once.

When Patrick retired, Frank took over as general manager. He got the Rangers into the playoffs in 1947–48 with his trade to get Buddy O'Connor and Frank Eddolls. He stepped down from coaching to concentrate on his manager's job and hired Lynn Patrick, Lester's son and an ex-teammate, to coach the Rangers, and Lynn came very close to winning the Stanley Cup in 1950, proving Boucher astute in hiring him as coach. But the Rangers were an aging team and eroded. Lynn Patrick resigned to go to Boston, and neither Neil Colville nor Bill Cook, also former teammates of Boucher's, could get the Rangers into the playoffs. Here, General John Kilpatrick, the Rangers' owner, thought about replacing Boucher, but he held off.

During the 1945–46 season, Boucher became the first coach to use two goalies regularly. Alternating Charlie Rayner and Jim Henry every game, and later, every four to six minutes, he proved the use of having two goalies.

Frank went back behind the bench in 1953–54, but couldn't get the Rangers into the playoffs. He then hired Muzz Patrick, another son of Lester and ex-teammate, to coach the team, but the Rangers won only 17 games and missed the playoffs again. So General Kilpatrick had a talk with Frank and reluctantly expressed that Frank couldn't build the Rangers into a winner, and recommended Frank resign as general manager. Frank thought it over, realizing that it was better than being fired. He then typed his resignation and handed it in to the General.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Famemarker in 1958. In 1998, he was ranked number 61 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. His uniform number 7 hangs in the rafters of Madison Square Gardenmarker, although it was retired for a later Ranger, Rod Gilbert. Although later Rangers such as Gilbert and Mark Messier have been more honored by recent fans, Boucher's status as the star of two Ranger Stanley Cups and the coach behind another marks him, except perhaps for team builder Lester Patrick, as the greatest Ranger of them all.

In 1974, Boucher wrote When the Rangers Were Young, a book about his experiences with the old-time Broadway Blueshirts, giving him one last moment of fame during his lifetime. He died of cancer on December 12, 1977 in the town of Kemptvillemarker, Ontariomarker, near Ottawamarker at the age of 76.

In 2009, Boucher was ranked No. 9 on the all-time list of New York Rangers in the book 100 Ranger Greats (John Wiley & Sons).

Career statistics

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1921–22 Ottawa Senators NHL 24 8 2 10 4 1 0 0 0 0
1922–23 Vancouver Maroons PCHA 29 11 9 22 2 6 2 1 3 2
1923–24 Vancouver Maroons PCHA 28 15 5 20 10 7 3 1 4 2
1924–25 Vancouver Maroons WCHL 27 16 12 28 6
1925–26 Vancouver Maroons WHL 29 15 7 22 14
1926–27 New York Rangers NHL 44 13 15 28 17 2 0 0 0 4
1927–28 New York Rangers NHL 44 23 12 35 15 9 7 1 8 2
1928–29 New York Rangers NHL 44 10 16 26 8 6 1 0 1 0
1929–30 New York Rangers NHL 42 26 36 62 16 3 1 1 2 0
1930–31 New York Rangers NHL 44 12 27 39 20 4 0 2 2 0
1931–32 New York Rangers NHL 48 12 23 35 18 7 3 6 9 0
1932–33 New York Rangers NHL 46 7 28 35 4 8 2 2 4 6
1933–34 New York Rangers NHL 48 14 30 44 4 2 0 0 0 0
1934–35 New York Rangers NHL 48 13 32 45 2 4 0 3 3 0
1935–36 New York Rangers NHL 48 11 18 29 2
1936–37 New York Rangers NHL 44 7 13 20 5 9 2 3 5 0
1937–38 New York Rangers NHL 18 0 1 1 2
1943–44 New York Rangers NHL 15 4 10 14 2
NHL totals 557 160 263 423 119 55 16 18 34 12

See also



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