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Ray Bourque, A Boston Bruins Legend That Never Took His Eye Off His Goal
The Boston Bruins are one of the original six hockey teams, and their teams origin dates back to 1926. The Bruins have had many great players over the years, there is no argument there. But one of the most famous Boston Bruins players in recent history, a defenseman, will go down in history as one of the greatest Bruin defensemen ever to play the game. His name is Ray Bourque.
What can you say about Ray Bourque? Was he an awesome defenseman, great goal scorer? Yes these things and many more.
Ray Bourque junior hockey career started with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he was voted the best defensemen in that league in 1978, and 1979. He was drafted in the first round by the Boston Bruins in 1979, being the eighth pick overall. But Ray Bourque as a bruin almost never came to be, because Ray was not their first choice. They also received this pick from a trade with LA.
The Bruins had their Eye on Keith Brown, but when Chicago drafted him first it left the Bruins with no choice but to draft Ray Bourque instead. Its funny how fate works, Ray Bourque was almost drafted by another team and was almost not a Bruin. How sad would that have been, but it did not happen.
He went on to play 20 1/2 seasons with the Boston Bruins, and 1 ½ seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. Ray was a great goal scorer with a lethal shot that was accurate. He scored many of his goals from the point on the power play. Eleven times in his career he scored over 20 goals, and he was always in double digits every year, except his last year in the league. He scored 31 goals in the 1983/1984 season, and became only the sixth defenseman to score over 30 goals.
As good as a goal scorer he was, he was an even better play maker. Twice he had over 50 assists, seven times he had over 60 assists, and three times he scored over 70 assists. He had over 30 assists every year he played in the NHL. His career totals were 410 goals, 1169 assists, 1579 points in 1612 games.
The Boston Bruins went to the playoffs all but two years when Ray Bourque was playing for them and twice they went to the Stanley Cup finals. Unfortunately losing both times to the red hot Edmonton Oiler's, one of the most explosive, and talented teams of all times.
Ray Bourque was selected to the all star team 18 years straight and was selected 19 times overall, 13 times he was selected as first team all star. Some of his notoriety came at the all star games in the skills competition where he would wow the crowds by taking out all the targets almost every time in the shooting competition.
Ray and Phil Esposito
Ray was also known for his actions off the ice. He did extensive charity work in Boston, and he gave a lot of his time to the community, and charity events. In 1992 he won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, a trophy given to a player with great leadership qualities on and off the ice.
When the Boston Bruins went to retire Phil Esposito's number seven, which happened to be Ray Bourque's number at the time, Ray Bourque did something special. Well being a true gentleman that he was, Ray Bourque in front of another sellout crowd at the Boston Garden, willingly gave up his number so Phil Esposito's number could be retired. From that point on he would wear number 77.
The End of Ray Bourque's Career With Boston
Unfortunately with all of Ray Bourque's achievements, the one award that would elude him was a Stanley Cup championship after being in the playoffs a consecutive, and NHL record, 29 years the Boston Bruins failed to make the playoffs in 1996. While they made the playoffs the next two years after that, they were on the verge of not making the playoffs again, and Ray Bourque getting up there in age, and wanting to win a Stanley Cup before he retired, requested a trade.
This was not some disgruntled player; there was no animosity between the Bruins and Ray Bourque that you see so many times today in all sports. What happened next was I believe the most unselfish act I have ever seen in any sports team ever. Harry Sinden, who was the Bruins general manager at the time, and a long time member of the bruin's organization, not only granted Ray Bourque a trade, but found the best team for him to play on with the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
Harry Sinden was a man who took no crap, who was not afraid to trade anybody. He even traded Phil Esposito, who scored 76 goals in 1970/1971 season, scored over 60 goals for three seasons, and scored 55 goals one year in 1972/1973 season. He was a business man first, and the team came first, no matter who the player was.
The story goes That Ray Bourque wanted to be traded to another east coast team in which teams made offers, But Harry Sinden had other ideas. He secretly was in talks with the Colorado Avalanche, to trade Ray Bourque, and he felt this was the best chance for Ray Bourque to win a Stanley Cup. So Harry Sinden put his pride aside and not only granted ray Bourque a trade, but he found what he thought was the best team he could be traded to that would achieve his goals of winning the Stanley Cup.
Ray Bourque Leaves Boston For Colorado
With 14 regular season games left, Bourque left Boston His team for the last 20 years, and started playing for the Colorado Avalanche. You really have to be wondering what this guy was thinking, or what was going through his mind. He must have been sad, and excited all at the same time, and he must have been wondering if he made the right decision. Also his family was settled deeply in Boston, who remained in Boston while he played for Colorado.
He immediately made an impact, and improved the team, and in 14 games had 8 goals and 6 assists. In the playoffs they won their first two series against Phoenix and San Jose respectively but unfortunately lost in a tough series against the Dallas Stars 3-2 in the conference finals
The next season on the 2000-2001 season Ray played all 80 games for Colorado They finished with the best record in the league at 52 wins, 16 losses, and 10 overtime wins, with 118 points. They entered the playoffs first playing Vancouver. They beat them 4 games to 1. The next opponent was Los Angeles who gave them a tough series but Colorado squeaked out a 4 games to 3 series win. Next were the conference finals against St. Louis which again they won 4 games to 1, which brought them into the Stanley Cup Finals against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils.. So you had to be wondering what was going through Ray Bourque's head, confidence, excitement, or any emotion that any normal player goes through in the Stanley Cup Final.
Ray Bourque A Stanley Cup Champion With the Colorado Avalanche
This story was like a Hollywood script with a happy ending, A true story that was not written by Hollywood producers, but was real life. It wasn't easy though. This series played out like a movie with many ups and downs, highs and lows, and disappointment and euphoria.
They were playing New Jersey in the finals, who just happened to be the last year's winners. So it was not going to be an easy series. Colorado won game 1, 5-0 so I'm sure Ray Bourque and Colorado was feeling pretty good after game 1. Game 2, New Jersey won 2-1. Colorado won game 3, 3-1. New Jersey went on to win the next two games, 3-2, and 4-1 respectively.
On the verge of being eliminated and losing the Stanley Cup finals, you have to wonder what Colorado and Ray Bourque were thinking; after all they had to win the next two games. There was no losing if they lost they were done. New Jersey could technically lose one more game and still be OK. I'm sure they wanted to finish it, and get it over with especially since they were playing at home.
Colorado took game six and won 4-0, setting up a Stanley Cup final game 7 at home. Another Hollywood Cliché comes to life. On June 9th 2001, Colorado squared of against New Jersey for a winner takes all hockey game, and on this day Colorado beat New Jersey 3-1 to become the 2000-2001 Stanley Cup champions. More importantly, after 22 years in the NHL, Ray Bourque was finally a Stanley Cup Champion. One other little fact that makes this story so great is that when the cup is presented to the captain of the winning team, the captain is the first one to hoist it and skate around the ice. Joe Sakic the captain of Colorado did something so unselfish it will go down as one of the greatest acts in NHL history.
Instead of raising the cup himself, he immediately skated over to Ray Bourque and handed him the cup so he could be the first one to hoist the cup, and skate around the rink. This was a true act of respect for a player who has given so much to hockey and his community.
The End Of Ray Bourque's Career in the NHL
Ray Bourque waited longer than any other player to win the Stanley Cup. He played 1612 regular season games and 214 playoff games before winning the Stanley Cup. Game 7 of the 2000-2001 Stanley Cup final was Ray Bourque last NHL game that he played. He went out in grand style. He could have easily played another two years, and been greedy and wanted more, like we see so much in sports today. But he achieved his ultimate goal and retired on top, and on top of the world.
In True tradition when it was Ray Bourque's turn with a day with the cup, he brought it back to Boston to a crowd of 20,000. He still lives in the Boston area and is still active with charities and hockey events in the Boston area.
Ray Bourque's number 77 was retired by both Boston and Colorado, and is only one of six players to have their numbers retired by two NHL teams.
Ray Bourque was selected to the NHL hall of fame in 2004 his first year of eligibility. This was the final accomplishment of one of hockey's true gentleman, and was a fitting end to a great career.