Though he never played for the Fort Wayne Komets, Ben Boudreau used to play at Memorial Coliseum all the time.
When his father Bruce played and coached the Komets from 1990-1994, Boudreau often visited and loved running up and down the ramps outside the Komets coaching office. Now he'll work inside that office.
Boudreau, 32, was named the team's full-time assistant coach to Gary Graham on Thursday. After a two-year professional playing career ended in 2010, Boudreau was an ECHL assistant coach the last three seasons, first with Bakersfield and then the last two with Norfolk.
"I still have scars on my body from crashing down the ramps on my roller blades," Boudreau said. "We tore that place upside down, but it was heaven for us. We loved being at the rink with our dad. When I came back last year to play the Komets, there were just a lot of great feedings going into it. It's a pretty cool place filled with history for me."
Boudreau comes highly recommended to the Komets by his father, coach of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, and former Norfolk coach and former Komet Rod Aldolf, but Komets General Manager David Franke said Boudreau received the job on his own merits.
"We thoroughly checked him out on the teams he's been with," Franke said. "Gary has known him for a while, and he played with (captain) Jamie Schaafsma in Flint. From a technical standpoint, he's very advanced. He'll work with Gary on putting gameplans and practices together, and he'll do some of the video if not most of the video. It will give Gary someone to talk to every day as far as practices and the gameplan."
Graham said he liked Boudreau's technical ability to work with players and help them improve.
"Any time you get an assistant coach who has a lot of experience at this level, it's a bonus," Graham said. "He's experienced in a lot of different departments, but especially the individual video. He runs hockey camps during the summer focusing on skill development, and those are the kind of things we want to take to the next level next year."
As a player, Boudreau was a defensive center who played for Flint in the 2010 International Hockey League Turner Cup Finals against the Komets. Then he played two years in Europe before becoming an assistant coach in Penticton, British Columbia before moving to Bakersfield. After the Condors were replaced by an American Hockey League franchise, he moved with the team to Norfolk.
Among his specialties are helping players study video and working one-on-one with them.
"The Frankes have nailed down the minor league hockey market to a science, and they give you every opportunity to win," Boudreau said. "I never thought twice when Fort Wayne called. They've got the same people working in the office for 20 years or more, and you don't do that if you hate going to work every day. So many of those things added up for me."
Boudreau and his fiance Karla are getting married Tuesday, and he hopes to move to Fort Wayne in mid-August.
After Konstantin Shafranov left the Komets to return to Russia on Labor Day, the team went without a full-time assistant last year with Schaafsma working part-time as an assistant, and former Komet Olivier Legault volunteering as an assistant. Franke said he expects both of them to return to those roles this season, giving the Komets the largest coaching staff they've ever had.
Franke also said he's continuing to pursue an NHL/AHL affiliation. The AHL's annual meetings are this week, and Franke said he'll follow up on some communications next week.
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.