Big Moments from Ray Bourque

By Emma Harger
A signed 1979 photo of Ray Bourque in game action. Photo by Dave Stanley via Wikimedia Commons.

On this day in the year 1960, Raymond Jean Bourque (or just Ray Bourque) was born in Saint-Laurent, Quebec. After a move to Montreal and a stellar junior career in which he was named the QMJHL’s best defenseman in 1978 and 1979, Bourque was picked eighth overall in the 1979 NHL draft by the Boston Bruins. Actually, Bourque’s selection was the result of last-second panicking. Harry Sinden, the Bruins’ general manager at the time, wanted to pick another defenseman named Keith Brown. But the Chicago Black Hawks (they still wrote it that way at the time) chose Brown first. Sinden panicked and ended up choosing Bourque instead.

This was a good idea on his part. Sometimes, good things are born of the panicking brain.

Bourque joined the Bruins for the 1979-80 season, scoring a goal in his very first game. He won the Calder Trophy and First Team All-Star honors. His 65 points for that season was a record for a rookie blueliner. He’d go on to keep producing–there were four separate seasons in which he scored more than 90 points–and smash and set records.

His 1,579 total points are the most by a defenseman ever and, adding in forwards, puts him at 11th overall. His 410 goals scored lead all defensemen as well. Over his career, he took more than 6,200 shots on goal, also a record. For just the Bruins, he is the all-time leader in games played, assists and points. He went to the All-Star Game every single year they held one during his career.

He first started being team captain in 1985 when he co-captained with Rick Middleton. After Middleton retired, he took over and would become Boston’s longest-tenured captain. For a time, he was also the longest-serving captain in the entire league. All in all, he was with the Boston organization for 21 years.

In his trophy cabinet by the time Year 21 with Boston rolled around were five Norris Trophies in addition to that Calder. Of course, there was one thing missing, something Bourque was itching to win before retirement: the Stanley Cup. Around the turn of the millennium, the Bruins were not exactly a Cup-caliber team. Bourque started looking for a team that could maybe get him to glory, first considering the Philadelphia Flyers, but Sinden was orchestrating a trade to the Colorado Avalanche. He felt they might be able to give Bourque what he wanted and so he went west in March 2000.

A little over a year later, Bourque’s wish came true as the Avs won the Stanley Cup against the New Jersey Devils in 2001. Joe Sakic even surrendered his captain’s privilege of having the first skate with Lord Stanley so Bourque could do the honors. It had been a long, long wait for him to drink from the Cup–he’d played more than 1,800 regular-season and playoff games.

Where did he choose to celebrate? Boston, of course–at the City Hall Plaza, jam-packed with more than 20,000 fans. Glory achieved, he retired not long after that, though he and his wife still live in the city. He’s active in area charities (he started the Bruins team tradition of shopping for toys and donating them to children’s hospitals each December), he co-owns an Italian restaurant in the North End and the Bruins named him a team consultant in 2005. In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, he joined the names enshrined in that hallowed hall. I think they should have waived the three-year wait for him like they did for Bobby Orr, but that’s just me.

The next generation of hockey-playing Bourques are coming up, too. His older son Chris was picked by the Washington Capitals at the 2004 draft and played in their system until May 2012, when a trade sent him to–where else?–Boston. Now he’s with the AHL Providence Bruins and currently leads the team in points. Unlike his dad, he’s a left-winger.

Younger son Ryan was picked by the New York Rangers in the 2009 draft. He also helped lead Team USA’s junior squad to the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship and the bronze at the 2011 World Junior. Though he considered playing college hockey, he decided to follow his dad’s footsteps and go into the QMJHL. Playing for the Quebec Remparts meant that he was coached by one of his dad’s former co-workers, none other than Patrick Roy. Now he’s with the AHL Connecticut Whale. Like Chris, he is a forward–he plays center.

Chris and Ryan also have a sister named Melissa.

But wait, there’s already a third generation of Bourques and a potential future player. Not long before he was traded to Boston, Chris became a father to a son named Kingston, who features prominently on his papa’s Twitter account. (Chris even managed to get his dad on Twitter too.) At this rate, it may not be any surprise if Kingston decides to ply his dad and grandpa’s trade.

Here are some big moments from Ray Bourque on this, his 52nd birthday. Sound and video quality may not be the best on some of these due to lower-quality recording standards at the time.

Sakic lets Bourque do the honors of the first skate with Stanley. (Go to about 2:40 in for the end of the game and the start of celebrations.)

He wore #7, which had also been Phil Esposito‘s number. When Esposito’s number was officially retired in 1987, Bourque revealed, in dramatic fashion, his new digits. A standing ovation that went on for well over a minute followed.

He scores a shorthanded goal from 160 feet away against the Hartford Whalers.

Though he is ready to answer the bell and fight with Ron Sutter, Cam Neely jumps in first.

That’s not to say he couldn’t defend himself. (The video quality improves at 13 seconds.)

Known for having a deadly accurate shot, he takes just four attempts to break all four targets during the 1991 All-Star Game skills competition.

Sometimes, he even played goalie.

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