Work in Sports
In Ray's image
It didn't take long for Bourque to make his mark on Avs
Posted: Sunday May 14, 2000 01:01 AM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
DALLAS -- When Raymond Bourque came to Colorado in early March, he strode into the Avalanche dressing room with his silver aura in tow. His strong, soft-spoken, presence nourished his new mates. His confident, I-play-30-minutes-a-night-I’m-40-and-I’m-going-to-the-Hall-of-Fame bearing made them cockier by half. And Bourque’s thick legs and broad backside solidified the Colorado blue line once and for all.
"When we got him we didn’t get one new guy, we got 23 new guys," says Avalanche center Chris Drury .
The Avalanche would not be where they are, up 1-0 in the Western Conference final were it not for Good Raymond. Of late though, they have been getting along fine without him. For three games Bourque has been watching from the sidelines, nursing an odd and lingering injury to his left knee. The Avalanche have won all three games. That’s not an ordinary three-and-oh. That’s three-and-oh against the Red Wings and Stars. That’s three-and-oh with two games on the road.
Saturday night Colorado scored a couple of goals that might have been vintage Bourque. The first came on the power play, yet another element of Colorado’s game that Bourque has infused. This time, without him, Adam Foote unleashed a shot from the point. In front of the net stood big winger Dave Andreychuk , making things difficult for Eddie Belfour . Foote’s shot rebounded off the scrum and Milan Hejduk netted it neatly.
The second goal came from defenseman Aaron Miller , who trailed the play in beautiful, Bourquesque fashion. Peter Forsberg went to the net with Miller behind him. When the puck wriggled loose, Miller was there.
It was Bourque who turned a talented but tentative Avalanche team into a team that is seven wins away from total Cup madness. They were on a 14-1 run when Bourque wrenched –- or bruised, or strained or stretched -- his knee against the Red Wings. They were playing as if winning was the natural option.
"We’re still riding him being here," Drury said after Saturday’s 2-0 win. "He’s still around at practices. We still feel him even when he’s not in the game."
Bourque should be back soon. Monday night or Friday, perhaps. In the meantime note this: In two months he has given the Avalanche a gift worthy of the best teachers, the most valuable leaders. He has helped them become better, propped them up, and at the same time given them the strength to know they can win without him.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Kostya Kennedy is covering the Stanley Cup playoffs for the magazine. He will check in periodically with postcards from the edge of the action.