Maybe it was a mistake what Robin Bouchard did back in 1996, but that depends on your perspective.
Bouchard, a right wing, had scored a goal in regulation and another in a shootout in his first game with the Komets.
I felt like a rock star, he said.
But after getting scratched for one game, then hitting goalpost after goalpost in the next, he went back to Flint of the lower-level United Hockey League.
That was probably a mistake I made in my career, said Bouchard, who was slated to play on the Komets’ top line the next game. I guess I wanted to go back to my comfort zone. We had won the championship in Flint the season before. I wanted to go back and get my ring and just stay.
Bouchard has only played in four more games at the AAA level, but they say things happen for a reason. A few months after leaving the Komets, Bouchard met his wife, Lisa, with whom he has two children.
And now he’s on the cusp of becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in minor-league hockey. The current mark of 682 is held by Don Parsons, and Bouchard is 52 goals shy of breaking it – controversially.
The IHL recently determined that 18 goals Bouchard scored with HC Bolzano in Italy during the 2006-07 season don’t count, mostly because European statistics haven’t counted for others on the all-time list. It’s still an arbitrary determination to some, since games played in Europe do count in determining whether players are rookies.
The level of play there (in Italy) is probably higher than it is here (in the IHL), Bouchard said. It is what it is. I didn’t really think much of the decision. If it didn’t count for anybody else, why should it count for me?
Bouchard has four goals and nine points in six games this season for the Komets’ rivals, the Muskegon Lumberjacks. It was some physical play on Bouchard, who leads the IHL in points, that set off two melees in Saturday’s 3-1 Komets victory. That included Fort Wayne’s Brad MacMillan leaving the penalty box to fight Jason Lawmaster.
Bouchard is looking forward to breaking the mark.
I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t mean a lot, he said. When you’re talking about an all-time record in minor-pro hockey, and when you think about the guys who have played at this level, you think of a lot of very good hockey players.
Before Parsons, the record was held by another former Komet, Kevin Kerr, with whom Bouchard lived as a rookie in Flint. Before that, the record was held by ex-Komet Scott Gruhl, who also played in Muskegon.
Bouchard, 36, said a key to his production has been rededicating himself to the game after his short stint in Italy.
I didn’t take care of myself as much as I had in the past, he said. I told myself and my wife, If I’m going to play, I’m not going to just play to play and hang on like some guys do.’ I lost some weight and rededicated my career, and it’s paid off.