The 37-year-old native of Edmonton, Alberta, was one of the most successful international Canadians of the modern era. He won a silver and two bronze medals at the World Junior Championship, two gold and one silver at the World Championship, an Olympic gold in 2014, two World Cup of Hockey championships, and the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in the spring of 2019.
In all, he played 1,240 NHL regular-season games over 17 years and three teams during what will surely be a Hall of Fame career. Known for his durability, he also had one of the longest Iron Man streaks in league history, playing in 737 consecutive games between 2004 and 2014.
Bouwmeester first rose to international prominence at the 2000 World Juniors when he made the team as a 16-year-old, the youngest player ever to represent Canada at the U20. It was his first of three straight World Junior tournaments during his WHL years with Medicine Hat, and at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft he was chosen third overall by Florida, behind Rick DiPietro and Kari Lehtonen.
He made the Panthers at his first training camp that fall, just after his 19th birthday, and stayed with the team for six years. The team never made the playoffs, but for “Bo” that meant having a chance to play for his country at the World Championship. He accepted invitations in 2003 and again 2004, helping Canada win gold both years and being named IIHF Directorate Best Defenceman in ’03.
In the fall of 2004, “Bo” was named to Canada’s team for the World Cup, again helping the team to the championship, and in 2006 he replaced an injured Scott Niedermayer at the Turin Olympics when Canada finished a disappointing 6th.
Bouwmeester signed as a free agent with Calgary in 2009, but after three more years without reaching the playoffs he was traded to St. Louis at the deadline in 2013. It was there he played the final seven and a half years of his career, culminating with a Stanley Cup win in 2019, when the Blues defeated Boston in seven games.
He played in the 2008 and 2012 World Championships as well, but the culmination of his career came in Sochi as he played on Canada’s gold-medal team at the 2014 Olympics. He played again at the 2016 World Cup, winning in what was his final international competition.
His career came to a sudden end the night of February 11, 2020, during a road game in Anaheim. Bouwmeester suffered a heart attack on the St. Louis bench. The speedy actions of doctors saved his life, but his career was, more or less, over. Soon the season was postponed because of Covid-19, and Bouwmeester was not with the team during the Return to Play last summer. He wasn’t with the Blues the past few weeks either as they prepared to start the new season, and Monday’s announcement merely confirmed what was the likely outcome—retirement and good health.
Bouwmeester was never a great scorer from the blue line, but he was a master of starting the offence by getting the puck out of his end quickly and efficiently. He was a competitive and reliable presence in his own end who could play half a game at full effectiveness. Soft-spoken off ice, he was a force on it, and although his career was cut short by a terrible event, it was not a short career by any means. And few players have had as long and successful a history of winning as Bouwmeester, one of only 29 members of the Triple Gold Club.