By Dan Ninham
The Warroad community was invited to honor hockey legend Henry Boucha on December 29, 2022 at the Warroad Hockeytown USA Classic prior to the Warroad vs. Orono boy’s hockey game.
Twin Cities PBS (TPT) and Boucha Films have partnered to create “Boucha,” a documentary about the life of Henry Boucha to be released in 2024. The film is directed and produced by Leya Hale (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Diné).
Henry was introduced on a red carpet on the ice before the game. He was also in a meet and greet gathering held in the ice arena lobby between the first and second period of the game.
Award-winning director Hale, along with Boucha, and the film crew were in Warroad from December 27 to 31 to film the Warroad segment for the documentary. “Boucha” details Boucha’s athletic success until his NHL career was cut short by an on-ice assault and injury, his legal battles with the NHL, and his journey of healing and cultural reclamation. It is a one-hour documentary that follows the hockey legend from early stardom to crushing defeat to healing.
“It was such an honor to document and witness the Warroad community honoring and celebrating one of their hometown heroes, Henry Boucha, during the Hockeytown USA tournament,” said Leya Hale. “It was truly amazing to see youth and all ages alike embrace Henry from every direction. He is truly loved.”
There was a time in Boucha’s later in life journey that one of his daughter’s invited him to come back to Warroad in a full circle where he started. Tara Boucha is the mother to adult daughters Sky and Shalese, high school senior son Gaabi, and sixth grade son Doot. Tara talked about the event, “The event was a nice tribute to my dad. He was presented with a wooden plaque with Boucha, the Warrior logo and his retired WHS jersey #16 on it and a Pendleton blanket.”
“Warroad High School Hockey Coach Jay Hardwick mentioned how his Grandpa Dick Roberts coached my dad in high school … and how things have come full circle and he now gets to coach his grandson Gaabi Boucha,” added Tara.
Sky Boucha played hockey up until seventh grade, then played volleyball, basketball, and golf throughout high school and then played collegiate golf. “My Papa is the reason I actually played golf in the first place though. He got me my first clubs in sixth grade for Christmas,” shared Sky.
Sky continued to talk about how her grandpa made her proud. She said, “Watching my Papa being honored for not only his athletic achievements but the impact he’s made on the hockey community and native communities was amazing. It was a phenomenal night and something I will never forget. I am incredibly proud of the work he’s done and continues to do.”
“It was a truly circle moment for him to be honored the first time in the 90’s having his son JP on the blue line and my mom Tara next him. Then 30 years later having my younger brother Gaabi on the blue line and my mom and I watching alongside one another. It was a really special moment for him to be back out on the ice and to take in that moment with everyone there celebrating his accomplishments,” added Sky.
Daughter Shalese Snowdon followed in her grandpa’s footsteps and is the American Indian Education Coordinator at Warroad Public Schools. Shalese is also a law student at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She was in the Legal Studies department at the University of Wisconsin Superior and also on the collegiate golf team.
“Growing up my Grandpa Henry Boucha’s story has always been very inspiring,” said Shalese. “As a hockey player, his story was always one I looked up to because not many people reach that level of hockey such as the NHL and the Olympics.”
Shalese continued, “His stories of skating on the river and playing street hockey for hours all while being a standout four-sport athlete are my favorite examples of his sheer love of athletics. Hockey was his ticket out of Warroad after high school and his passion for the game allowed him to pursue great professional opportunities and to travel the world.”
“In my professional capacity as Warroad’s American Indian Education Coordinator, it was great to be able to honor him in our Ojibwe ways with an honor song and gifts,” shared Shalese. “It was a very nice event. My grandpa has dedicated decades of his life to Warroad Indian Education as he served for a long time on Warroad’s Indian Parent Committee and as the school district’s first American Indian Education Coordinator. He also organized Warroad’s annual powwow for a long time.”
“His commitment to bettering the lives of Warroad’s youth through his involvement in Warroad youth hockey and Indian Education is another part of his story that is inspiring!” said Shalese.
Grandson Gaabi Boucha is in his senior year hockey season and recently played in a showcase football game at the U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. The 1000 yard running back from this past season at Warroad HS, was one of 80 indigenous high school seniors playing in the fifth annual Indigenous Bowl in mid-December. Gaabi was featured in state media reports of the event including the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio. The Indigenous Bowl is a partnership between the 7G Foundation and the NFL. Gaabi hasn’t made a college decision for next season yet.
Henry’s other children Henry Jr., JP and Bridgette Boucha Schulte were not available for comment.
The life and times of hockey legend Henry Boucha have not only inspired the generations of his immediate family but has and will continue to inspire countless others.