My Friendship with Henry Boucha
Henry Boucha did just about anything to help out his friends, including here at Minnesota Hockey Magazine.
I am sure there are thousands of people who have a story about Henry Boucha and his benevolence.
With a heavy heart, this story is how Henry convinced me to do a special issue on his beloved Warroad community, and the making of one of my all-time favorite special issues featuring Warroad hockey. I also want to share my last in-person visit with Henry as we discussed faith and the spiritual side of life for hours.
Henry’s death on Sept. 18th, 2023 left a void in the hockey world that will never be filled. Henry and his legend was bigger than life. Henry may have passed on, but his legend will always be with us.
I met Henry more than a decade ago, when we had booths next to one another at the Let’s Play Hockey trade show. That was fortuitous because wherever Henry went it, he attracted a crowd. By the end of that weekend, Henry and I had developed a friendship that continued up until his passing.
Henry and I had a love of hockey that went beyond the ice. He was always promoting the game and those who played it.
About seven years ago, I met Henry at the grand opening of the Royal Club in Lake Elmo where he was helping sell real estate. Henry had invited me to the event and said he had something else he wanted to share with me.
When I got there, Henry started right in with the Warroad hockey idea and told me we really needed to go to Warroad and put together a special issue. I initially liked the idea but told Henry I needed to see if it was even possible to do a whole magazine on such a small town of less than 2,000 people.
I reminded Henry that Warroad is a six-plus-hour drive from the Twin Cities, and I didn’t have a lot of spare time to go and look. I asked, how did he plan on getting me up there?
Henry said he would fly me up, on the Marvin Windows plane that next week, so I could take a look for myself. He also said he would help me get the stories and the sponsors to make this a reality. The next week, I was called by a Warroad Hockey Town USA person, letting me know that I had a seat reserved for early Saturday morning, and to catch the flight in Bloomington at the Signature Aviation terminal.
I arrived at 5 a.m. for the flight out of the private terminal at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where I was about to hop on a private jet with some of the greatest names in Minnesota hockey. In the terminal were past and present prominent NHL players who were heading up to play in the annual Warroad Celebrity Golf Tournament.
I looked at the scene and thought it would be best if I boarded as the last person on the plane, sitting wherever the open seat was. I boarded the plane and looked to find the open seat that was next to Lou Nanne. I put my briefcase down on the seat next to Nanne, and he politely told me no, that seat was taken by Neal Broten. Nanne then hollered to the back of the plane: “Brot’s get your butt up here.” I looked and saw Broten get up from the rear of the plane, and now figured that would be my seat in back. As I got to the back of the plane, I sat face-to-face across from Ryan Suter, who was sitting next to Tony Hrkac, a previous Hobey Baker winner for the University of North Dakota.
With the seating arrangements now figured out, I was on my way to Warroad for an epic day. I had a few copies of the magazines and gave both Suter and Hrkac copies. They were impressed with the magazine, and we talked about my trip and what it took to make a magazine happen. Suter gave me his cellphone number; he wanted to advertise a product he was bringing to market.
When the plane landed, we all jumped into cars that were waiting for us, and it was onto the course for the day’s festivities. At the Warroad Estates Golf Course, I met all of the legends of Warroad hockey, as well as many other hockey celebrities.
By the end of the day, I knew why this town of less than 2,000 people really needed to have a special edition and was accurately called Hockeytown USA. Now it was time to get back with Henry and figure out the details.
I met with Henry that week to discuss the next steps. He said that if I drove him up he would take care of everything else. About a month later, we were both back in Warroad to get down to business to capture the story on what makes Warroad Hockeytown USA.
I had heard some stories on the wilder side of Henry. He knew when it was time to work, when it was time to kick back and when it was time to have some fun. I saw this while living with him that week.
We started by settling in for a week at a condo on the Warroad Estates Golf Course. From there, Henry took me around town daily, showing me the rich hockey history and life in Warroad. Henry made the morning calls and had people lined up, opening doors of opportunities for stories or sponsors, and then relaxed in the evenings taking in a grandson’s football or granddaughter’s volleyball game.
True to his word, all of this came true. Henry’s love for his hometown and his presence made it easy to get people on board with content or as an advertiser. We worked hard getting the stories and sponsors. With Henry’s help and persistence, we did in a week what typically takes a team of writers and ad sales people a month or more to do. By the end of the week, we had more than enough content to do a complete magazine, with enough sponsors to create a 100-page magazine.
That Saturday night, it was time to celebrate a successful week. Henry said we needed to go out to one of his friends’ who was having a surprise 50th birthday party. We had a blast. When they gave the birthday grandpa some small sticks of dynamite, it made a lasting memory, hearing the sizzle as the wick burned and then the blast, each time they went off. As the designated driver, we stayed late, then closed down the local bars, and made it back to the condo around 2 a.m. for a late-night steak dinner that Henry had planned earlier in the day.
After this magazine was produced and on the shelves statewide, I got a call from Henry, saying we needed to really promote this. I asked what did he have in mind? A week later, I found myself with Henry on the radio of the north, 100,000-watt WCCO AM and Sports to the Max with Mike Max. Henry glowed as he spoke for 45 minutes on his hometown and the sport he loved. He shared the stories that we covered in the magazine and then about his own career. My time on the air was about three minutes to Henry’s 42, which was appropriate for the show.
I am so thankful for all the time I spent with Henry. Up until very recently, Henry and I met at various events and hockey games and helped each other out where possible. Prior to the Covid mess, I helped him with some of his book signings and he helped me at our charity golf tournament or our banquet to honor lifetime achievers in hockey. We also went to watch some pro and high school hockey games together.
Henry had a deep spiritual side to him that few knew about. Besides our love for hockey, I think one of the reasons we enjoyed each other was he was a very spiritual person and knew my faith in Christ was real to me. I enjoyed sharing spiritual thoughts with Henry. He loved his Creator and had a reverence for life. I would call Henry on occasion to get his take on something in the wild I had just seen. He always had a spiritual explanation.
The last time I was with Henry was when he invited me over several months ago for a steak lunch. Henry shared that his heart was now in rough shape and the danger of surgery was almost as bad as his condition. The doctors at Mayo Clinic told Henry that they did not want to operate.
We spoke for hours about life and death and all that was going on in the world.
I shared my Christian faith with him, we agreed about the Creator, but Henry wasn’t convinced Jesus was the only way. After several hours of a very deep conversation, I told him I had to get going to go to see my mom and dad for dinner. Henry asked if I could call my parents to see if he could go with me.. My parents were thrilled to have Henry over for dinner, where they talked hockey for a few hours. On the way back to his home we continued our discussion on the afterlife.
The Minnesota Hockey Magazine Warroad Special Edition would not have happened without Henry. He not only introduced me to the stories but also the sponsors, who all jumped on board in making this happen.
The link to the magazine Henry helped bring to life is below. To view the magazine, click on the cover and scroll to flip the pages. By reading this magazine, you will find out what makes Warroad Hockeytown USA and is a go-to source for the locals.
We all have Henry to thank for keeping these stories alive.