Some players hold press conferences to announce their retirements from the NHL. Others opt for interviews with friendly journalists. Still others are content to have the NHLPA issue press releases on their behalf.
Very few, and perhaps none, have retired via their wife announcing it on Facebook. That is, until the wife of tough guy Jesse Boulerice of the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced his retirement last week on the WBS Penguins Facebook page, in a message to fans/advertisement for her juice pill business:
OK, so it's no Gretzky retirement press conference. But in fairness, we're not even sure if Janet had a Geocities home page back in 1999 to announce it herself ...
Surreal nature of the announcement aside, quite the legacy of infamy for Mr. Boulerice, no?
In the 1998 OHL playoffs, he swung his stick and hit Andrew Long in the face, giving the Guelph Storm 19-year-old "a broken nose, multiple facial fractures, a Grade III concussion accompanied by seizure, a contusion of the brain, two black eyes and a gash in his upper lip the size of a handlebar mustache," according to Sports Illustrated.
Boulerice was charged with "assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder." He pled "no contest" and was suspended for his final season in the OHL.
In 2007, as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Boulerice was suspended 25 games — matching the Chris Simon suspension for the Ryan Hollweg stick-swing — for cross-checking Ryan Kesler in the head. It followed a 20-game suspension for the Flyers' Steve Downie in September, and sparked a debate about a team's responsibility for its players' violent acts. So, basically, Jesse Boulerice was Trevor Gillies before Trevor Gillies was Trevor Gillies.
Last season, Boulerice was suspended 10 games by the AHL for essentially body-checking a referee. Which was a new one.
But if there's one moment Boulerice is going to be remembered for in the hearts and minds of hockey fans, it would be the one, courtesy of Aaron Downey's fist:
Yowch. If some of this seems callous in the wake of a player's retirement from professional hockey, it shouldn't be seen that way. It is, after all, Boulerice's legacy, along with being a frequent pugilist that managed to hang around for a decade. He wasn't a detested player by fans of the teams he played for, which is obvious by the outpouring on his retirement message.
Minor league players retire every offseason — though not via their wives on Facebook — without making a blip on the cultural radar. For better or worse, Boulerice made an impact on hockey during his time. OK, pretty much for worse. But fare thee well in retirement, sir.
- Jesse Boulerice
- Trevor Gillies