He has played all of one game this season. And for that one game, all of 8:28 in ice time. He is 39-years old, making him one of the oldest players in the NHL; truly ancient for a hockey player. With all the talk about John Scott being selected to the NHL All-Star Game, and as a captain no less, it bothers me that most have forgotten about Eric Boulton. If John Scott is believed to be a true enforcer, then he is also not the last true enforcer, nor is Scott the oldest or most experienced. That honor would go to Boulton.
After Jaromir Jagr (43-years old), Patrik Elias (39-years old with an April birthday) and Dan Boyle (39-years old with a July birthday), Eric Boulton (born in August of 1976) is the fourth oldest player in the NHL for the 2015-16 season. Boulton began his professional career in 1996 with the Charlotte Checkers of the East Coast Hockey League, and during the 2000-01 season began his NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres. Eric Boulton’s mentor and linemate when he first broke into the NHL was legendary enforcer, Rob Ray, one of only a handful of players to record over 3,000 penalty-minutes in their careers.
As a native Buffalonian, I have fond memories of Boulton’s time in Buffalo. Boulton and Ray were teammates and linemates on an aggressive fourth line for parts of three seasons, which was often centered by Erik Rasmussen. I recall a toe-to-toe battle in particular that Boulton once had versus “The Russian Bear” Andrei Nazarov when Nazarov was with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Boulton’s NHL career would carry him onto stops in Atlanta with the since relocated Thrashers, in New Jersey with the Devils, and now currently in New York with the Islanders where he has played for the past three seasons prior to this current season. Boulton was actually a mainstay for the Atlanta Thrashers for 6-years, including that team’s one lone playoff run during the 2006-07 season.
Consider Boulton a goon if you would like. During his playing career, he has certainly fought all of those players whom, fairly or unfairly, have been deemed as goons at one time or another. Just name them: Nazarov, Tie Domi, Donald Brashear, P.J. Stock, Steve McKenna, Peter Worrell, Wade Belak, Eric Cairns, Georges Laraque, Jim Cummins, Brad May, Sandy McCarthy, Jim McKenzie, Scott Parker, Stephen Peat, Chris Neil, Milan Lucic, … need I go on? Most of those players have now gone onto greener pastures. Boulton is still here.
In 649 NHL games, Boulton has scored 31-goals and tallied 79-points total, while racking up 1,419 penalty-minutes total. He has played 20-years of professional hockey. I do not care what your standpoint on fighting is – you cannot knock an individual who has done their profession for 20-years.
While the true enforcer in today’s NHL is basically non-existent, one cannot argue Boulton’s longevity. And while the accolades may go to John Scott, likely due to his abnormally large size which makes him stand out rather than for his own longevity or skill (whether it be pugilistic skill or hockey skill), I believe Eric Boulton should receive some form of acknowledgement for his time playing the game of hockey in the best sports league in the world. Please do not forget him. This will likely be his last NHL season.