By Mark Haas
LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s an age-old hockey question.
“People ask would you rather score a goal or win a fight,” said Colorado Eagles forward Darryl Bootland. “Back then it was always, ‘I’d rather win a fight, but now I’d like to score a few more goals.’”
The 35-year-old from Canada has scored more than 230 goals in his 15-year professional career, but by one website’s count has had over 275 fights.
It is a career that has spanned many cities, teams and leagues, but that started in 2000 with a call from the Colorado Avalanche.
“’Hello, Michel Goulet, welcome to the Colorado Avalanche Darryl Bootland, this is Michel Goulet,’” Bootland said, mimicking the former Avs executive, who called the 18-year-old to tell him Colorado was drafting him in the eighth round. “And I said, ‘Excuse me?’ It was pretty cool.”
Bootland went to Avalanche training camp that year, and he tells a great story about his first scrimmage with a couple of future Hall of Famers.
“Peter Forsberg got hurt, and no one on the bench was ready. (Joe) Sakic was out there and I am going,” Bootland recalled. “I was 18 years old, cocky as ever, and went down and looked off Sakic and fired it top-shelf and it went in because obviously (Patrick) Roy thought I was going to pass it to Sakic.
Bootland says the Avs tried to let him keep the puck, but a certain goalie had other ideas.
“Roy came in the locker room and saw the puck in my stall and Mr. Roy didn’t like that and threw it in the garbage,” Bootland said. “I didn’t move and I wasn’t getting the puck because he could do whatever he wanted because he was a scary man to me back then.”
Colorado would assign Bootland to a minor league team, but Bootland chose to return to a Canadian junior league. Three years later he made it to the NHL, ironically, with Colorado’s rival, the Detroit Red Wings.
“To be honest I was never a Red Wings fan, I’m still not,” Bootland said. “But they offered me more money, and at 20 years old, what are you going to do?”
Bootland’s resume includes 32 games in the NHL where he scored one goal and had 85 penalty minutes with the Red Wings and New York Islanders between 2003 and 2008.
He spent the majority of the 2000s in the AHL however, and now the majority of this decade in the CHL and ECHL.
“This is my NHL and my Stanley Cup,” Bootland said. “It’s just the (ECHL) Kelly Cup and it is for the love of the game.”
This is Bootland’s third year with the Eagles, and despite a graying beard, he has no plans of retiring any time soon.
“I have heard it all — skunk stripe and grandpa,” Bootland said. “But I always tell the kids that I teach in the summer that when it is no more fun, that is when I won’t play anymore.”
Well he’s still having fun, and he’s still having success. Bootland won a pair of CHL titles with the Allen Americans in 2013 and 2014, and this year has helped put the Eagles in first place in the ECHL Mountain Division as they chase their first championship in a decade.
“Coming down the stretch he is a guy that can talk about past experience and the sacrifices a team needs to make to a long playoff run and win a championship,” said Eagles head coach Aaron Schneekloth.
“Obviously I want to win a championship,” said Bootland. “But when you can come to the rink as a job it is a pretty amazing feeling and it is a great life.”