Fourteen years ago, Philippe Boucher won a silver medal for Quebec at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Now his son, Matthew, hopes to follow in his footsteps and bring some hardware back to La Belle Province.
As the sons of former World Under-17 Hockey Challenge participants, Boucher and Pacific’s Nick Chyzowski are giving a new spin to the adage “like father, like son.”
Nick is the son of Dave Chyzowski, who suited up for Pacific in 1988. Dave was drafted second overall by the New York Islanders in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play more than 1,000 games in an 18-year professional hockey career.
After playing for Quebec in 1990, Matthew Boucher’s dad, Philippe, was drafted 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He played 17 years in the NHL for four teams, winning a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09.
“It means a lot to me to play in this tournament,” says Boucher, a left winger with the Blizzard du Séminaire-Saint-François of the LHMAAAQ. “I wanted to make this team really badly. Knowing that my dad was here before, too, was a huge motivation for me.”
“My dad told me not to regret anything I do here,” says Chyzowski, a left winger with his hometown Kamloops Blazers in the WHL. “Just leave everything you got here and you’ll be happy at the end of the day.”
“It’s a short tournament, so never get too high or too low,” Boucher remembers his dad saying. “Just play your game and whatever happens, happens.”
While it would appear that family nature led the players to early hockey success, they nurture different styles of games than their dads employed.
“He’s a defenseman and I’m a forward, so that’s a big difference,” says Boucher. “When I was young I played defense, but now I guess I just love to score goals.”
“My dad was a little bit more skilled than I am,” says Chyzowski. “I’m more of a role player on teams.” He laughs that it’s not the only difference in their games. “I’ve seen some old footage and a lot of his fights. Those are the best.”
That isn’t to say the players don’t appreciate how their dads played the game. “What I admire the most is just the way he shoots the puck – he has a real quick release,” says Chyzowski.
Boucher also admired the big shot his dad possessed, as well as his mindset on the ice. “He was determined to always be better than others,” he says.
When the name on the back of your jersey is so closely tied to one player and his story, creating your own identity can be tricky. But it’s a challenge both Chyzowski and Boucher welcome. “People back home look at me as a hard worker – I play with a lot of heart,” says Chyzowski. “That’s what I’ve been trying to build my name as, instead of my dad’s.”
While Chyzowski intentionally chose to wear No. 16 with the Blazers – the same number his dad donned when he played with the team in the late 1980s – he doesn’t feel pressure to play up to his predecessor. “We’re different players,” he says. “I want to make him proud, but I play my own game.”
And Boucher simply believes there is no pressure to follow in his dad’s footsteps. “Hockey is what I love to do every day,” he says. “So it’s not really pressure, it’s having fun.”
As the players continue to blaze their own trails, they have the comfort of knowing their dads are never far away. Dave Chyzowski is now the director of sales and marketing for the Blazers. “He’s a pretty funny guy and all the players love him,” says Chyzowski, before laughing, “although sometimes he’s kind of annoying, but it’s all good.”
Meanwhile the Bouchers may soon find themselves looking at each other from opposite benches. Philippe is the general manager and head coach of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, and Matthew was drafted this year by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. “I don’t think I’ve ever played against him,” says Boucher. “It would be something kind of bizarre, but also something special.”