Former Leaf Boyd Devereaux finds new life behind the camera
By Sean Fitz-Gerald | 12/02/17 | Last Updated: 12/02/17 10:18 AM ET
TORONTO — Mats Sundin calmly popped a piece of gum in his mouth. His wife and parents were with him in the limousine, headed south from their five-star hotel to the Air Canada Centre, and at almost the precise moment Sundin began a final rehearsal of the speech he would deliver that night, the setting sun cast an atmospheric pink glow on his face.
Boyd Devereaux was glued to the screen.
“These are some of the best shots,” his video editor said.
A single light bulb hung from the ceiling above the two men. It was a bedroom they have converted into an editing suite, with two screens, two chairs and posters from three music acts. An old National Hockey League Players’ Association gym bag was off in a corner.
“You got the right angle, man,” the editor said, reviewing the footage again.
Devereaux spent most of his first career working in much larger rooms; including the two years he spent playing alongside Sundin with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This room, inside his brother-in-law’s downtown apartment, is what he hopes will start a second act.
The 33-year-old has started a production company, Waking Sound Productions, and is in the process of producing a documentary on Sundin’s recent immortalization by the Leafs, who raised his number to the rafters last weekend. Devereaux said it is for Leafs TV.
“It felt like a 30-hour day, but in the end, we couldn’t sleep because we were so excited about it,” Devereaux said. “And that’s a large reason why, I think, I’m trying to do this. I love the game of hockey.”
Devereaux was a first-round draft pick with plenty of speed and potential, but not enough luck, as it turned out. The Edmonton Oilers took him sixth overall in the 1996 NHL draft, but he suffered a concussion in his very first professional game (an errant shot hit him in the temple during an AHL playoff game), and he suffered another, more serious concussion early in his NHL career (on a hit from Dallas Drake that left Devereaux convulsing on the ice.)
Aaron Lynett/National PostDocumenting Sundin’s return to Toronto, with the climax of the jersey-raising ceremony, is the most complex project Devereaux has attempted to date.
Still, he appeared in more than 600 regular season NHL games and won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. His career ended in Europe two years ago, when he suffered a serious neck injury while playing in Switzerland.
The idea for his production company — named after a Smashing Pumpkins song lyric — began to grow quickly after his career ended. Devereaux tried out the concept first with his old junior hockey team, shooting a then-unheralded prospect named Jeff Skinner on the day he scored his 50th goal of the season with the Kitchener Rangers.
He has developed two web-based videos for Matt Nichol, the former Leafs strength and conditioning coach who now trains a select handful of NHL players. Documenting Sundin’s return to Toronto, with the climax of the jersey-raising ceremony, is the most complex project Devereaux has attempted to date.
And it is due in about two weeks.
“It is ambitious for us, and it definitely is a big step,” he said. “We’re working hard here, but everybody seems to be wanting to get in a lot of good advice. I’ve been getting a lot of good help along the way from within the Leafs and everybody, and I really appreciate that help. It’s going to be a crunch to get it ready, but I’m excited to reach the end point.”
Devereaux has not taken film or television courses. He is serving as the producer for the Sundin tribute video, and he also shot the footage inside the limousine, but he leaves the technical aspects to his editor and childhood friend, Bennet De Brabandere.
“Boyd’s got us some great access,” De Brabandere said. “It’s exciting because, all of the sudden, you have all of this remarkable content to shoot. And really, in a documentary setting, that’s what it’s all about.”
Devereaux has experience beyond hockey, having already launched his own record label, Elevation Recordings, and he knows making a living in entertainment can be just as dirty and physical as life on the ice. When it comes to pitching ideas to follow hockey players, though, he does have one distinct advantage.
Players have a comfort level with Devereaux because he played the game at its highest level. Sundin and his family behaved as if they were alone in the car on that ride down to the arena. They spoke Swedish — Devereaux might ask either Jonas Gustavsson or Carl Gunnarson, the only Swedes on Toronto’s active roster, for help with the subtitles — and gave Devereaux several minutes of unique, behind-the-scenes footage.
“You go from here and here, from panic to euphoria, seven times through the day,” he said. “But in the end, I think it’s going to be worth it. It’s a bit of a passion project for me, considering I love Mats and I wanted to create a cool document for him. That’s the main goal, so we’re working hard.”