Whether or not the Hall of Fame defenseman will get to see the first few games is to be determined.
Bourque, a member of the 2000-01 Stanley Cup-winning Avalancheleaves Boston on June 10, heading to Italy with his wife, Christiane, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
“I’m hoping to be able to catch some hockey, but it won’t be easy,” Bourque said on Thursday from Boston on the 21st anniversary of the Avalanche’s 2001 Stanley Cup victory.
He is thrilled that Colorado is four wins from the 2022 championship, the team’s first trip to the Final since he made that journey 21 years ago. It’s with Colorado that after 22 NHL seasons, nearly 21 of them with the Boston Bruins, he finally won the Stanley Cupthe crowning glory for the 1979-80 Calder Trophy winner as the League’s rookie of the year and five-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman.
“I think the Avalanche is such an exciting team, such a fun team to watch,” Bourque said. “They’ve been knocking on the door for the last three years but unable to get through the second round to knock down the door for whatever reason. It wasn’t for a lack of talent. It’s fun to see them get to the Final again. I’ll be cheering for them big time.”
Bourque still lives in Boston and says he pulls for the Bruins, too, cherishing fond memories with his two sons and grandson of the Bruins’ seven-game, ultimately unsuccessful 2019 Stanley Cup Final run against the St. Louis Blues.
“My hope at the beginning of every season is that the Bruins and Avalanche meet in the Final – that way I can’t lose,” he joked. “It’s exciting. That town (Denver) is a fabulous place, I had such a great experience there with my family. It was a special 14, 15 months that we’ll never forget.”
Bourque famously was traded by the Bruins to the Avalanche with forward Dave Andreychuk on March 6, 2000 in a multiplayer deal, the trade a favor to the popular defenseman in a thinly veiled to get him the Stanley Cup that had eluded him for two decades in Boston.
It didn’t work out in 2000, the Avalanche losing a seven-game Western Conference Final to the Dallas Stars.
“It didn’t take me long when I got to Denver to know that I had something left in the tank,” Bourque said. “I knew I was coming back for one more season.”
Video: Bourque on raising the Cup at the end of his career
He sat down with Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix and told him he wanted a one-year deal in a final bid to win the Stanley Cup.
“Pierre said, ‘No, I’m going to give you a two-year deal,’ but I just wanted one,” he said. “Whether we won or lost in 2001, only my wife knew I’d play only one more year.
“So Pierre gave me a two-year contract. I was making $6 million and asked for the same salary. He said, ‘I’ll pay you $5 million this year, $6 million in the second year. back, I’ll give you that $1 million so you’ll make your $6 million.’ “
Turning 40 in December of 2000, Bourque finished the 2000-01 regular season tied for third with Rob Blake in scoring among defensemen with 59 points. His 52 assists were third among defenseman and he was sixth in time on ice at 26:06 per game.
The Avalanche swept the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference First Round, needed seven games against the Los Angeles Kings in the second round then defeated the Blues in a five-game Western Conference Final.
Colorado trailed the New Jersey Devils in the Final 3-2 but responded with a 4-0 road win in Game 6, sending it back to Denver for a winner-take-all Game 7.
“The last two games were very special for me because I knew that Game 6 might be my last game played in the NHL,” Bourque recalled. “I knew I wasn’t going to play another year. I invited all my wife’s family, my family and my closest friends to that game, knowing it might be my last. When we won Game 6, I brought everybody to Denver, knowing that was definitely going to be my final game.
“It was a really neat feeling, taking in everything. Going into Game 7, knowing its importance, what was at stake, my last crack at it, I can’t tell you I slipped very much that afternoon. very many butterflies the last 10 years of my career, having been through pretty much every situation, but I had them that day.”
Everyone on the Avalanche roster, from the front office to captain Joe Sakic to every player on the roster, wanted to win Game 7 as much for Bourque as for themselves. Colorado was ahead 3-0 by 6:16 of the second period.
“I worked with sports psychologists through the years – we had a really good one in Boston named Fred Neff who I did a lot of work with – about staying in the moment, staying present, thinking about the process, not the outcome,” Bourque said. “But I’ll tell you, it was very hard not to think about the outcome when you’re up 3-0, on the bench, telling yourself, ‘I’m going to win the Cup’ when there’s nearly half a game still to play. Trying to stay in the present was quite a test.”
Bourque would play a game-high 29:35 in the 3-1 victory, though not necessarily by choice.
“They wouldn’t let me come off the ice the last three minutes, they wanted to make sure that I was on the ice at the final buzzer,” he said, laughing. “I tried to come off a couple times and they’d just throw me back out there. All they were doing was showing my big head on the scoreboard. I thought I was going to faint and they’d take me off on a stretcher and I wouldn’t see the moment of the Cup presentation.”
But indeed Bourque was on Pepsi Center ice for Commissioner Gary Bettman’s presentation of the Stanley Cup to Sakic.
But instead of taking the usual victory lap, Sakic immediately handed the Cup to Bourque, who joyfully pressed it overhead and planted a kiss on its sterling barrel.
Bourque had played 1,612 regular-season games, another 214 in the postseason. And how he stood on shaky legs, the Stanley Cup in his grasp, touching it for the first time in his life.
He had played the most games, both regular season and regular season and combined playoffs, of any player before winning the Cup.
“It’s got to be my favorite of them all,” he said of the game. “There are other ones – your first game in the NHL, your first Stanley Cup Final in 1988, against the Edmonton Oilers, finally getting there, having a chance to play for the Cup. There are a lot of special games but the ultimate prize is Game 7. You know if you win and end up winning the Cup, that’s the most special.
“I don’t need to close my eyes to see Joe. After Game 6, he wanted so badly to win, and he wanted so badly for me to lift the Cup first. It says so much about Joe as a person and a teammate And how classy a guy he is. You don’t ever see the captain not hoisting the Cup first. For him to allow me to do that that night is something I’ll never forget. I tell people that Joe won the Hart Trophy that year but that assist, him passing me the Cup, was the best play he made all year.
“The first time you lift the Cup, it’s light. Hold it over your head for a little while, it gets heavy in a hurry, but you don’t mind that kind of workout. The history over your head is amazing. When they tell you that when your name goes on the Cup it’s there for about 60 years, there’s nothing like it.
Twenty-one years later, Bourque is hoping the Avalanche can knock down that door again and experience all that comes with winning hockey’s holy grail.
He just wasn’t overly optimism that he’d find a restaurant or espresso bar in Italy that would be showing the games at 2 am local time, should they begin in North America at 8 pm ET.
“I’ll see the updates and I’ll keep posted, that’s for sure,” Bourque said. “Maybe I’ll tell my boys to tape the games.”