Boston Bruins Cult Heroes: Dave Poulin

Sorry, folks- been on a bit of a hiatus preparing for the USHL Draft and then all of the things we do afterwards. We’re back with a re-post of a Where Are They Now? story I did on Dave Poulin for New England Hockey Journal about 20 years ago when the former B’s standout and Selke Trophy winner with the Philadelphia Flyers was still coaching his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. He always was and is a class act, calling giving me his personal cell phone to call him back when he wasn’t in his office at the time he had set up our interview. He missed it, but called me and had me call him at home that night so I didn’t miss my deadline. Enjoy.- KL

Poulin

Dave Poulin spent 165 games as a member of the Boston Bruins from 1990-1993 providing the kind of leadership and veteran savvy that helped the team rise to the top of the National Hockey League’s standings and remain there throughout his tenure.

Poulin’s ability as a defensive forward, as well as his maturity, provided the Bruins the kind of depth around which championships are built.  Although none of his teams reached that elusive prize called the Stanley Cup, Poulin’s name is synonymous with words like heart, character, desire and skill.  Seven years after walking away from his playing career, Poulin still cherishes the time he spent in Boston as a member of its storied hockey franchise.

            “What I remember about playing for the Bruins was that it was two distinctly different teams,” Poulin, 42, told the New England Hockey Journal.  “The first team I was on featured Craig Janney, while the second had Adam Oates.  The first also had Cam Neely, while the second did not.”

            Poulin was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers when B’s GM  Harry Sinden made the move to acquire the 1987 Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive forward, in exchange for Ken Linseman on January 16, 1990.  At the time, the Bruins were making serious noise as a Stanley Cup contender and in Poulin, Sinden no doubt recognized the value of one of the league’s most renowned leaders and the benefits that would have both on the ice and in the locker room.

            “I enjoyed my time in Boston immensely,” said Poulin.  “I loved that town and we had a great bunch of guys on those teams.”

            Poulin was a free agent signee with the Flyers after a great career with the University of Notre Dame and a stint in Sweden.  He helped lead Philadelphia to a pair of Stanley Cup finals appearances in 1985 and 1987, falling short in both instances to the Edmonton Oilers.  In his first season with the Bruins under head coach Mike Milbury, his new team reached the finals only to succumb once again to Edmonton in five games.  However, looking back on that 1989-90 Boston Bruins hockey club, Poulin says that they certainly had a shot to win it all, and a lot of the credit for that should go to Milbury.

            “Mike was terrific for us,” he said.  “He was the perfect coach for a veteran team.  He didn’t try to bring in a lot of systems, but he realized that there was so much leadership inside that locker room and he pretty much left it up to us to go out and win hockey games.  It was a great situation for the team given our talent level and veteran presence.

            Perhaps Poulin’s greatest moment as a Boston Bruin took place on April 11, 1990, in Game Four of the Adams Division Semi-Final Series against the Hartford Whalers.  With the favored Bruins trailing in the series two-games-to-one, and with team’s captain and defensive stalwart Ray Bourque sidelined with an injury, Poulin led one of the greatest comebacks in Boston Bruins history.

With the team down 5-2 after two periods, he scored a pair of third period goals en route to a 6-5 victory that stunned the Whalers, ultimately dooming them to defeat in that series.  Poulin’s heroics began in between periods of that contest, when he asserted his leadership skills, exhorting his teammates to make amends for such a poor showing in the game’s first 40 minutes.

            “I was very emotional that night,” Poulin recalled of his sentiments in the dressing room before the final period of play.  “At that time, I had only been on the team a few months, but I realized that one of the things I brought with me was my leadership and when you’re in a situation like that, something just comes over you.

            “I knew we had a better team than we had showed to that point.  We needed everyone in that locker room to beat Hartford that night and I told them that much.  I think some guys were surprised at some of the things I said, but when the third period started, and I scored on the very first shift from Glen Wesley to make it 5-3, I think they were kind of like, ‘Wow- it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to actually do something about it.’  Then, Bobby Beers got one, and Dave Christian scored a great goal to tie it.  When we won the game, I knew that we were going to win that series.”

            According to Poulin, those Boston Bruins teams were full of leaders, none more important than the captain himself.

         “Raymond’s leadership is so underestimated,” he said.  “He was a very vocal leader, but I think that he encouraged the perception that he was quiet off the ice.  As far as being a team leader however, he acted quite differently in the locker room.  I think he was happy when I came to the team because he knew that I had been a captain in Philadelphia and that my experiences in a leadership role would take some of the responsibilities off of him to be the team’s focal point.”

            Poulin left the Bruins in the summer of 1993 to sign with the Washington Capitals, where he spent two seasons before retiring from hockey with a year left on his contract to pursue the head coaching position at his alma mater. Since retiring, he has led the CCHA’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an 81-124-30 record in seven seasons.

            Although Poulin’s time with Boston Bruins was far too short, fans who were privileged enough to see him play for the team will always acknowledge his key contributions to those clubs that reached one final, and two conference final series while he was an alternate captain.  Poulin’s class, skill and leadership make him a fan favorite to this day.

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