Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bruce Shoebottom enjoys people. He understands shared experiences. Just hope you didn’t look for him in the crowd when the Scarborough High girls played Lewiston for the state hockey championship Saturday night.
He prefers his own space high above the ice. It gives him a better view to watch his daughter, Sami, push the puck with her teammates toward the goal.
“I like to watch the play develop,” said the man who once was a favorite of Boston Bruins fans during his brief NHL career. “You can really break down what’s happening. I try to quietly watch.”
Shoebottom couldn’t hold back a chuckle when we spoke Saturday morning. There was nothing quiet about his time with the Bruins and the many more seasons playing in Portland for the old Maine Mainers and various other minor league cities in a 10-year pro career. He was 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds when he played. His role was to intimidate opponents or otherwise throw them off their games. He did his job well.
Kent Hulst stood on the other side of a window at the Portland Ice Arena on Wednesday night watching his daughter Alyssa and her Scarborough teammates beat Falmouth for the Western Maine championship. The cheers from the Scarborough fans seated in the bleachers on the other side of the glass were muted as Hulst chatted quietly with friends. It was early in the third period and Scarborough was on its way to a 7-0 victory.
The players whooped and hugged on the ice when the game ended. They did again when the Western Maine trophy was presented. The girl wearing No. 28 was a bit more restrained. I turned to Hulst: Like father, like daughter? Twenty years ago the Pirates won the Calder Cup, beating Moncton for the AHL championship at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Kent Hulst had 34 goals and 33 assists that season.
“Have you watched the video (of the on-ice celebration that night),” he asked. “If you did, you’ll know the answer.” Meaning he wasn’t outwardly exulting on the ice, either.
Maine is a minor league place, far from the bright lights and roar of the big cities. A way station for Portland Sea Dogs, Maine Red Claws and Portland Pirates/Maine Mariners players fighting to reach the big leagues. Shoebottom and Hulst are two of perhaps a dozen pro hockey players who have made southern Maine their home. They weren’t teammates but their daughters are. Alyssa Hulst is a junior forward and Sami Shoebottom a freshman forward on a very balanced team that finished an unbeaten season by winning the state title Saturday night.
Alyssa was 2 or 3 years old when her father retired after the 2000-01 AHL season. He played eight seasons with the Pirates and was the quiet, steady team captain. Shoebottom played nine games with the Austin Ice Bats of the Western Pro Hockey League during the 1997-98 season, his last. He did play in one more game several seasons later.
If Sami plugged her father’s name into a search engine, Shoebottom fight videos would be among the first headings. “They know a little about what you’re about,” said Shoebottom, speaking of his career and his four children. Older daughter Spencer, who also played for Scarborough, is finishing her third year at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. “I concentrate on the positives.”
He spent several hundred minutes in the penalty box in some seasons. The Bruins called him up from the Mariners in the 1987-88 season and he played in four NHL playoff games, scoring his first and only postseason goal. Bruins fans threw shoes on the ice in appreciation.
The next season Shoebottom played in 29 games with the Bruins and 44 with the Mariners. He wouldn’t get that much playing time in the NHL again.
He didn’t pressure his daughters to play hockey. Each developed their own style. “Spencer liked to do some damage on the ice,” said her father. “She caused some mayhem. Sami likes to score.”
So does Alyssa Hulst. She anticipates and sees the game well. She has leadership skills. “She’s motivated herself,” said Kent Hulst. “She’s done the work and it’s all come from her.”
He might have been speaking about himself.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: