By Murray Pam
This season will mark the Ottawa Senators’ 20th anniversary since their return to the NHL. During the season, the Senators are taking the opportunity to honor their legendary early-20th-century clubs and players, including Frank Nighbor and Cyclone Taylor. But opening night will be reserved to celebrate the 1992-93 expansion team that included first-ever captain Laurie Boschman.
Boschman, a 13-year veteran when he was acquired by the Sens, was a member of the New Jersey Devils the previous two seasons where he was a consistent checking center and penalty-killer. He was assured by both Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and Senators GM Mel Bridgman that he would not be selected in the expansion draft. However, Lamoriello surprisingly left Boschman unprotected and Bridgman quickly took the opportunity to select the hard-working forward.
Boschman, understandably, was caught off guard when he learned he had been selected by Ottawa.
“My wife (Nancy) and I were flying back to our summer home in Winnipeg,” he recalled. “We were going through customs and the agent said that I was picked up by the Senators. He asked me how I felt about that.”
One of the senior players on the expansion Senators, Boschman was easily the best choice to become the club’s first captain and he said he felt “privileged’ to become the leader of a new team.
The Senators had more downs than ups in their debut season. The club’s highlight came early with a 5-2 opening night victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
“The Canadiens had Denis Savard and others,” Boschman said. “They went on to win the Cup that season, but we won (that game). The fans were 100 percent behind us. The community was excited to have NHL hockey.”
During the post-game, Boschman overheard a conversation between Senators starting goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz and center Jamie Baker. An excited Sidorkiewicz declared “we may be able to win 20 games this season.” Alas, this was not meant to be. After toppling the Habs, it would be another 22 games before they won their second of the season and Ottawa was victorious on only 10 occasions in their inaugural season. In fact, they did not win on the road until their fourth-last game of the season.
Even though the year was a trying one, Boschman and his family became enamored with Ottawa and made Canada’s capital their permanent home when he retired at the end of the season.
Hockey writers sometimes say some of the toughest competitors on the ice are the Lady Byng candidates off the ice and Boschman fits this description. The ninth overall pick of the 1979 draft, he is one of only 16 NHL players to have totaled more than 500 points and 2,000 penalty minutes over his 14-year career.
Boschman, 51, is now heavily involved in local charities and is an active member of the Sens Alumni. His pride and joy is being the Ottawa and Eastern Canada director of Hockey Ministries International. Cantankerous former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard once criticized Boschman for his religious beliefs, but he has remained true to his faith and has been involved with Hockey Ministry camps for the past 16 years, running Chapel programs for Christian athletes from junior to the NHL.