Even some of the greatest leaders wait a long time to capture glory. Some never, ever, attain that level of excellence. Others may decide to never capture glory and stay true to one team, one city, and the legacy of them in that city.
For Raymond Bourque, he tried to stay true to both his dreams of the Stanley Cup and to the fans of Boston. And he still is loved by hockey fans the world over.
Raymond Bourque (Boston Bruins 1979-2000; Colorado Avalanche 2000-01)
One of the greatest defensemen of all-time began his humble career in the small town of Saint-Laurent, Quebec playing hockey as a youngster. Inspired by the firewagon hockey of his hometown Montreal Canadiens, Bourque would always be a force on the blueline. Bourque had a stellar career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Sorel Blackhawks in 1976-77 (48 points in 69 games) and the two years after the team moved to Verdun (172 points in 135 games).
In his final two campaigns, in which he scored 79 and 93 points respectively, Bourque was named the QMJHL's best defenseman. His career would not slow down come draft time.
Ray Bourque's career burst onto the professional scene as he was selected in the first round, eighth overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. His rookie season proved to a record setting one. Not only did Bourque net 17 goals and 65 points in that 1979-80 campaign, he also captured the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team, the first time in NHL history that a non-goaltender had done so.
Playing with Phil Esposito's legendary #7 on his back for the first eight years of his career, Bourque played above and beyond the expectations for a defenseman. Before the 1990s, Bourque would net four 20+ goal season and one 31 goal season from the blueline.
In December of 1987, Bourque conceded his #7 as the Bruins retired Esposito's number and Bourque would go with his legendary #77.
Bourque's leadership earned him the captaincy of the legendary Bruins and he would serve that role for fourteen of his twenty-one seasons in Boston.
Bourque's first brush with a possible Stanley Cup Championship came during the 1987-88 season when the Bruins raced past the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, and New Jersey Devils to set them up with a championship match with the dynasty known as the Edmonton Oilers. It would prove to be a learning lesson for the Bruins as they were swept in four games.
The turning point of the 1988 Finals was when, in Game Four, the lights in the ancient Boston Gardens went out during the second period, and the game was suspended and resumed in Edmonton two days later, with the Oilers capturing the Cup on home ice.
Bourque was an inspiration for his teammates, and a great leader with 21 points in the 23 playoff games. Only two years later, Bourque and the Bruins met the Oilers again in the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, this time without Wayne Gretzky in an Oiler uniform. Yet, the result was much the same. The series started with a long triple-overtime loss to the Oilers and the Bruins seemed to never recover.
Despite home ice advantage, the Bruins lost all their home games and managed only one road win on their way to losing yet another Stanley Cup. Bourque's 17 points in 17 games was another great run.
Boston would come up short of another Wales Conference title the next season, losing out to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Bourque's numbers in the playoff run again were stellar as he notched 25 points in 19 playoff games. That season, Bourque's 94 points would be good for his second consecutive and fourth career Norris Trophy and his eighth NHL First All-Star Team selection.
For the remainder of his career in Boston, the Bruins seemed to fade into background of NHL powerhouses. The Bruins would only make it past the first round twice more with #77 on the blueline.
Yet, through it all, Bourque continued to impress. Bourque would score his final 20 goal season of his career in 1995-96, yet the Bruins were taken out by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Florida Panthers in five games.
As the Bruins seemed to not be a team built for a deep playoff run, Bourque requested a trade to be able to win a Stanley Cup. The Boston management complied with Bourque's request and dealt him to the Colorado Avalanche with Dave Andreychuk for Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier, Samuel Pahlsson, and a first round draft pick.
Bourque had an immediate impact in Colorado, scoring 14 points in the final 14 games of the 1999-2000 season. Yet, the Avalanche would come up short that playoff run losing out to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
Bourque was not done just yet. During the 2000-01 season, Bourque led the Colorado defense in scoring and was a tremendous voice in the Avalanche dressing room that he was named alternate captain. He would break Gretzky's record of consecutive All-Star Game appearances by participating in his 19th consecutive All-Star Game. Bourque's 59 points would be his highest total since the 1995-96 season when he scored 82 points for the Bruins.
The playoff run for the Avlanche started out quickly as they swept Vancouver, then they hit a road bump by almost getting bounced by the giant killer Los Angeles Kings and then took out the St. Louis Blues in five games to put the Avalanche in their first final since their last Cup win in 1996. For Raymond Bourque, it would be his first final since 1990.
With all-star goaltender Patrick Roy in net and a lethal offense led by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Alex Tanguay, the Avalanche found themselves down 3-2 in the series to the New Jersey Devils. But a spirited 4-0 Game 6 victory on the road set up a home game in Game 7 with Alex Tanguay proving to be the hero.
After 22 years of hard work, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic handed the Cup off to the longtime blueline workhorse Raymond Bourque for him to raise the Stanley Cup and be at peace.
Bourque had waited longer than any other person to win the Stanley Cup in the 108-year history of the Stanley Cup that season. And on June 12, 2001, Bourque brought the Cup back to Boston to thank the Bruins fans for their love and support throughout his 21-year career in Boston.
Bourque's career is marked with greatness, both in leadership and in his numbers. His hard work and his determination made him one of the greatest leaders. His upbeat voice and work effort made him one person in the dressing room that was heard and teammate would respond to.
His gentlemen-like play would result in only one game misconduct throughout his career. And, most unknown to most fans, when asked to be traded by the Bruins, then Philadelphia GM Bobby Clark offered then Boston GM Harry Sinden defenseman Andy Delmore and forward Daymond Langkow in exchange for Bourque. Sinden knew that Philly was one of the first choices on Bourque's list, yet he told Bourque that Colorado would be a better choice and he was proved right.
Bourque would finish his career with 410 goals, 1169 assists for 1579 points, all records for defenseman.
And he would finish it all off with the greatest achievement of all - the Stanley Cup.
Ray Bourque Season Career Stats (1612 GP, 410 Goals, 1169 Assists, 1579 Points)
Ray Bourque Playoff Career Stats (214 GP, 41 Goals, 139 Assists, 180 Points)
8th All-Time Games Played (1612)
11th All-Time Regular Season Points (1579) - 1st All-Time As Defensemen
4th All-Time Regular Season Assists (1169) - 1st All-Time As Defensmen
12th All-Time Playoff Points (180)
3rd All-Time Playoff Assists (139) - 1st All-Time As Defensemen
Awards & Accomplishments:
Stanley Cup - 2001
Norris Trophy - 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994
King Clancy Memorial Trophy - 1992
Lester Patrick Trophy - 2003
Played for Team Canada in the 1981, 1984, 1987 Canada Cup Tournaments
NHL All-Star Game MVP - 1996
NHL First All-Star Team - 1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2001
NHL Second All-Star Team - 1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1999
Became 3rd Defenseman in NHL History to score 1000 Points
All-Time Leader in Bruins Games Played, Assists, and Points
Named 14th Greatest Player on The Hockey News' List of 100 Greatest Players