Redemption for Jesse?

Jesse Boulerice, you’d think, is one mistake from incurring an NHL version of the Three Strike Rule, and there are more than a few people who can and do make a compelling argument he should be out of the game already.

But Boulerice, a 30-year-old tough guy with two significant incidents of mayhem on his record as a player, isn’t out of the game after being picked up on waivers by the Edmonton Oilers this week.

In fact, there’s a distinct possibility Boulerice will be in Oilers silks when the Colorado Avalanche come calling at Rexall Place Saturday as he attempts to re-establish himself as an NHL player.

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Given the book on Boulerice, there’s debate whether he deserves this chance at all, and how much slack he’ll get from NHL officials now that he’s back looking for work as an enforcer with the Oilers.

Ugly past

You know Boulerice’s story:

  • As a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Boulerice was suspended for 25 games by the NHL in October of 2007 for crosschecking Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks in the face. After a brief reinstatement with the Flyers, Boulerice has been bouncing around the minors. He was toiling with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL as Colorado property when the Oilers claimed him.
  • In April of 1998 while playing for Plymouth of the OHL, Boulerice struck Andrew Long of the Guelph Storm in the face with his stick. It was an ugly incident that led to Boulerice being suspended by the OHL for one year in addition to him eventually pleading guilt to aggravated assault.

A pretty honest tough guy during 170 NHL games through 11 years as a pro, Boulerice knows he’ll be forever stained by the incidents—the same way Marty McSorley soiled his reputation after so many seasons as a good-old-fashioned enforcer by two-handing Donald Brashear across the head in a fit of anger.

“I always try to play an honest game, make smart plays and not do anything cheap,” Boulerice said. “No hits from behind or stuff like that.

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“All of a sudden, in the heat of battle, it happened. It wasn’t like I thought in my head I’m going to go crosscheck this guy (Kesler) in the face. I went over to give him a shot. It just kind of happened that way. It wasn’t intentional.”

Long gone

While I didn’t speak with Boulerice about specifics of the Long incident, and the Oilers understandably would rather it not be discussed, it’s worth noting it was very much worse than the more publicized Kesler incident.

Here’s the Vancouver Province‘s account of Boulerice’s attack on Long, written Oct. 12, 2007.

“Long was knocked unconscious. He suffered a seizure. He suffered a grade-three concussion, a brain contusion, multiple facial fractures and two black eyes. He needed 20 stitches, had a crushed nasal cavity and was left with a blood spot on his brain.”

Here’s some comments from Long, who is out of hockey and a real estate agent in the Vancouver area, after the Kesler incident, but before the 25-game suspension was handed down.

“Out loud, I said, ‘Oh my god, are you kidding me?'” says Long. “I don’t even know if I felt anger. It was kind of disbelief, the act was so similar. But I wasn’t surprised. It was one of those things where you’re just left shaking your head, thinking, ‘Now what?

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“I know the suspension is not going to fit the crime. I just know it. He shouldn’t be allowed to play ever again. He was given another opportunity and look what he did.

“He should be suspended for life. I wanted him suspended for life, that was my only real concern. People said: ‘Don’t you want him to go to jail? Don’t you want to sue?’ I said, ‘No.’

“It is a hockey incident, but it’s the worst kind of hockey incident. So what do you do? You give the worst penalty. And what’s the worst penalty? A life suspension.”

And about his run-in with Boulerice:

“I almost died,” says Long. “It was within a couple of inches either way of happening. If I would have seen him, my natural reaction would have been to tip my head back and if I did that and he hit me in the neck, I would have been dead on impact. If it was two inches higher and I died, what would he have got then?”

Here we are

So, with Steve MacIntyre out of the line-up for at least two months with a fractured orbital bone around his left eye, the Oilers felt acquiring Boulerice would fill a need.

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Oiler Erik Cole, who played with Boulerice in Carolina and has known him since they were kids growing up in New York, has had nothing but glowing things to say about his old friend.

“I definitely questioned whether I’d get another chance to play,” Boulerice said after his first skate with the Oilers Thursday. “I’m grateful for it and I’m definitely looking at it that way. It’s an opportunity I can’t pass up and I’m going to make the best of.”

There, you have it. Likely starting Saturday, Boulerice will try to make good on another chance—one many people don’t think he should get.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • Clarkenstein

    Robin if this was real life he would be labeled a "violent multiple offender"!!! Mind you, with our justice system he would then likely be walking the streets just like he is now. An idiot with this type of past should have to appear before some type of review panel to even consider letting him play in the NHL again. What do they think… that he won't do this type of thing again??? It's not a matter of "if" but "when"!! Just look at this loser… put a set of orange coveralls on him, a few tattoos and he could be on the cover of "Prison Today". I'm a season ticket holder and I'll tell you what… when he comes on the ice I will leave the bowl. Mind you by the looks of his past ice time I will only miss a minute or two of the game!! This Oiler management team is looking awfully desperate with this move!!

  • kris

    This piece of "journalism" says nothing I didn't already know.

    Here's a question that you could try to investigate: Why are the oilers so nuts about goons this year when they weren't last year? Is it Tambo, the new owner, the players?

  • RobinB

    Dennis: It's got nothing to do with me or journalists "admitting" anything.

    The Oilers, at least MacTavish, made a remark the other day with reporters when Boulerice first arrived about not wanting to get into the past too much, which is understandable given the issues this player has had. Thus the reference to them not wanting to discuss it.

    At the same time, I've twice pointed out the background of this player, including in this piece. I'd have thought, given that many of us in the media are seen as team Yes Men, you might have seen a positive in that.

    Instead, Dennis, it's your usual poke and twist. I'm not sure where that comes from. When it comes to you, it seems I can't write much that isn't worth a snide reference of some sort.

  • This Oiler management team is looking awfully desperate with this move!!

    I think it is nothing more than trying ot keep Stortini's blood boiling. When Mac was playing Zach was in the PB. a little competiiton in the locker room to see who is going to play won't hurt – too bad the rest of the team didn't have someone chomping at the bit to get into the line-up.

    Guess we'll see tonight when 2 regulars come out of the line-up for Reddox & Bollerice to play as was suggested by Gregor yesterday.

  • Tim S.

    I think with this move the Oilers are looking out for there best interests and don't have some morale code to follow for the sake of the fans. He did the crime and did the time. Maybe it was not enough but that is not the Oilers problem.

    We need a tough guy, what other options were out there?? Parker?? Who was released for failing to report to the minors, sounds like a character guy.

    The league has and will always be filled with guys with checkered pasts, but at the end of the day he is a player that is eligible to play and fills a short term need with the Oilers. And I like that fact that the Oilers recognized the need and took care of it.

  • Dennis

    RB: Well I guess I read it wrong and for that I apologize. The way I took it was you guys were told now to ask him about the Long incident and while a player can choose to put a "no discussion" label on any topic of their choice, I'd figure a reporter would take at least one crack before being deterred. So to me it look like you were being told what to write or what Not to ask about.

    I think I've actually complimented you a couple of times in the recent past and it's not that I think you're a terrible reporter. But I've got a few examples of how things are covered up or just aren't ever investigated with the Oilers and I guess I lump you in with the pile and perhaps that's my mistake.

    Of course when I mentioned the media bias early on this year and you threw out the Journalism school barb, I sorta figured you sniped because because you knew there was an element of truth in what I said. And I seriously don't know if we'll ever meet in the middle when you tease me:) with things like calling Bob Stauffer the Oilers media critic as you did in your story about him replacing Phillips on the last road trip. We both know Bob never spared the rod when it came to MacT but he never said a bad word about Lowe so how can you call a guy a media critic when he drinks the GM's kool-aid?

    When I read stuff like that, I get snide:) And all I really want to see is someone write why the OIlers don't use six PKers anymore and why a guy like Cogs isn't given a regular role on that unit. Or perhaps why the Oilers won't trust 51 or 78 in the second tough min role and just how long MAcT's willing to let that experiment last.

    IS it too much to ask someone to write stuff like that?

  • RobinB

    Dennis: No it isn't too much to ask, but there's a better chance I'll take a look at some of the issues you mention or get into a converstation about them when you frame it as, "Hey, what about this?" instead of, "Hey, ass-kisser, pull your head out of the Oilers backside and ask some tough questions for once." I don't need that from you or anybody.

    Under our format now, I write 10 items a month for this site. I have to pick and choose. If I wrote an item every time I saw a line combination that looked goofy or every time I wondered "What's MacT thinking doing this?", I could write 50 items a month.

    Not writing it doesn't mean I don't recognize it or want to keep it quiet to stay in the good books. The lack of me wading in on every questionable decision on a game-by-game basis is a product of trying to hit the 10 biggest things on a monthly basis.

  • Bruthah

    Seems like Boulerice is only one Kessler incident ahead of Bertuzzi. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But then again, there's no possibility of my head being on the tee-box for this guy.


  • Dennis

    RB: if you want an idea that probably everyone else is afraid to touch, ask MacT just how much time he's willing to burn on developing Gagner. The Oilers will always have trouble with two line teams as long as MacT puts 89 on lines with bonafide players like 83 whom the opposing coaches will target.

    The way to win is take 89 and build a soft min line around him and give him shelter while guys like 10-83-34-26-18 take on the toughs. Any deviation from this leaves the Oilers vulnerable and puts pressure on an accelerated developement curve for Gagner.

    It seems to me that MacT's willing to lose a few points here and there all for the sake of bringing along at a quicker pace.

  • milli

    No kidding. Bertuzzi's still making a million a year. When i first heard this, I was totally against it, but ya know what, we all have F_CKED Up a time or two (or alot more) but I am lucky enough not to be famous or play pro hockey in Canada. I'll give him a chance to show he desevres to play. And, if Eric Cole, a guy who was just about paralized from a stupid play is gonna stand up for Bolerice, I'll take that as a glowing endorsement from someone who actually knows the man. Lets move on and let his actions speak for themselves.

  • Deans

    Nice Peice Brownlie. I remember being intially being mildly excited when the Oilers got Boulderice, but after realizing that this was the Kessler and OHL goon I got a little disheartened. Hopefully there are no more major incidences that would tarnish the Oilers reputation.