The Capitals’ 3-1 win over the New York Rangers Saturday, which gave Washington a 4-1 first round series win in the Stanley Cup playoffs, was huge.
Why is the series win so significant? Is it because it helped erase the memory of the Caps losing a 3 games to 1 lead last year to Montreal when Washington had the best record in the league?
Is it because the Caps have lost four series in which they led 3 games to 1?
Is it because a team with superstar Alexander Ovechkin and offensive stars Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin may finally live up to its postseason potential?
Is it because the Caps have one of the best home crowds in the NHL, even better than some teams in Canada?
Is it because the Redskins have become a laughingstock, the Wizards/Bullets have been mostly off the NBA’s radar for a quarter century, and the Nationals have never had a winning season?
The answer, of course, is: all of the above. But the Caps’ series win was most important because it means that coach Bruce Boudreau – and his wacky commercials – will stay.
It wasn’t guaranteed that Boudreau would have been fired had the Caps lost to the Rangers, but it might have been hard to justify keeping a coach whose top-seeded team got upset two years in a row.
Boudreau has led Washington to four straight Southeast division championships, and the Caps have won two-thirds of their regular season games under Boudreau. Boudreau is a good coach. But Boudreau’s commercials are classic.
Boudreau’s commercials aren’t his first foray into acting. In the mid-1970s, he had a very brief role as a minor league player in the quintessential hockey movie Slapshot. It wasn’t much of a stretch. The affable Boudreau would go on to play and coach in the minor leagues for three decades. When Boudreau played for the Johnstown (Pennsyvania) Jets, his apartment was used as Paul Newman’s place in the movie.
Boudreau made it up to the NHL for 141 games in the 1970s and 1980s, but he made his mark in the minors — he was named to the American Hockey League Hall of Fame in 2009.
For a guy who looks a little more like the neighborhood baker than a TV star, Boudreau has done pretty well on the local commercial scene, starring in a host of ads, most of them for American Service Center/Mercedes-Benz.
Boudreau may not be a master thespian, and his “acting” may be a bit melodramatic at times. Still, there’s something likable about a coach who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Looking a bit like the Pillsbury Doughboy doesn’t hurt either.
While Ovechkin is the team’s star, and has been featured in several national and local spots, Boudreau has become somewhat of a local celebrity, playing the role of the everyman.
The charm of local commercials is that, well, they’re usually kind of bad. They’re often so bad that they’re good. The greatest local commercial of all time with a sports bent may be the immortal Jhoon Rhee “Nobody Bothers Me” spot of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Quite simply, it will never be topped – and nothing will ever be played more often.
In the early 2000s, the airwaves were saturated with the ultra cheesy Eastern Motors commercials featuring Redskins players and other local athletes.
Going back to the 1980s, John Riggins was featured in a somewhat embarrassing Ford truck commercial.
While no single one of Boudreau’s commercials has become a cult classic, here are a few ones that are, well, so bad, that they’re actually pretty good.
“What about the cup holders?”
Boudreau, nicknamed “Gabby” because he likes to talk, is looking for a car at a Mercedes-Benz dealership. He interrupts the salesman, dramatically pauses, spins around and looks into another camera, asking, “What about the cup holders? I’m gonna need a pretty big cup holder.”
Boudreau tells the salesman he’ll need one about this big, motioning with his hands to describe a cup about the size of the Stanley Cup trophy.
The back of the car opens up to display a giant cup holder.
“Perfect,” says Boudreau.
“You had me at ‘no problem.’”
Boudreau tells a salesman he wants to upgrade his car without a price upgrade. “No problem,” the salesman says.” Gabby interrupts him, puts his hand up, and in a spoof of the movie Jerry Maguire, says, “J..j..j..just don’t speak…You had me at ‘no problem.’ You had me at ‘no problem!’” Boudreau’s eyes are watering. He looks like he is about to cry. He stops the salesman again: “Shh!” he says as Boudreau waves his finger at the guy to be quiet. So what if there’s some – rather, a whole lot of – overacting. It works.
“The social event of the season.”
In a commercial for Hadeed Carpet, Boudreau tells his wife, “This will be the social event of the season.” Mugging for the camera, he turns his head to the side, straightens his tie, and smiles like a combination of Rodney Dangerfield, the Greaseman, and Curly from the Three Stooges (and, yes, that is a compliment).
“You need new friends,” says Bruce’s wife after a bunch of hockey players smash the place up with their sticks. Boudreau knocks down a Penguin piñata near a horse in the background (See an outtake from that commercial).
So Bruce has saved his job. His commercials will live on. Maybe he’ll even make more. Oh, and by the way, the Caps have as good a chance as any team to win the Stanley Cup.
Boudreau is ready. He has the cup holder.
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