For this installment of “Hockey Player of the Week” we shall be focusing on someone who is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensemen who has ever played hockey. He is one of only six NHL players to have his number retired by two teams – Colorado and Boston. He was the heart of the Boston Bruins for 20 years; and they cheered and cried when he won the cup with Colorado in 2001. One of the classiest leaders to ever play hockey:
Ray Bourque was drafted 8th overall in 1979, after such major names as Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg, and Keith Brown. He was considered to be a great prospect, but nobody was sure how good he’d be. Bourque won the Calder Trophy in 1980 for best rookie; he won his first of five Norris Trophies in 1987. He became captain of the Bruins in 1985 (co-captain with Rick Middleton until 1988) and led them until his famous trade in 2000.
Ray never had huge, great scoring years like Paul Coffey did, but that didn’t stop him from being considered the best defenseman on skates. Ray only had two seasons in the minus end of the plus/minus, both with the flagging Bruins of the late 1990s. He was never a huge goal scorer, not like Coffey; but he did break 30 goals once, and he racked up 410 goals during his career.
Bourque was best known as a passer – he set up 1,169 goals during his time on the ice, second to only Wayne Gretzky when he retired (since surpassed, I think, by Moose and Super Joe). But he was a steadying anchor, who deserved to win it all. That’s why when he requested a trade from Boston in 2000, he wasn’t seen as a traitor, but as a departing hero, off for his last quest.
Colorado traded for the 39 year-old defenseman, and they didn’t win the cup that year. But in 2001, Ray and the Avalanche went to game 7 in the Pepsi Center. Ray was no mere tagalong – in that last season he was +25 and had 59 points. When the final buzzer sounded in game 7, the Avalanche won. Gary Bettman gave Joe Sakic the Stanley Cup, but instead of immediately hoisting it over his head (like every captain had in history), Joe gave it to Ray, who threw it up over his head, victorious, at last.
The conquering hero brought the Cup back to Boston, where the people celebrated his victory as if it were their own. There may never be another Ray Bourque, a man who embodied the goodwill of an entire city, but there will always be his victory – and his #77 hanging from the rafters in Boston.