Ray, meet Stanley
Finally! Bourque gets hands on the Cup
Updated: Sunday June 10, 2001 3:37 PM
DENVER (AP) -- As the seconds ticked away, the magnitude of the moment began to overwhelm Ray Bourque.
He bent over on the ice and tried to compose himself. Nothing could prepare him for a celebration 22 years in the making.
"I couldn't breathe, and it wasn't because I was tired," Bourque said Saturday night after lifting the Stanley Cup following Colorado's 3-1 victory in Game 7 of the finals. "It was just too much. I was trying to hold off the tears."
Bourque, denied in 20 previous playoff appearances, let the tears flow as the clocked finally hit zero, and his teammates mobbed him behind the net.
When Avalanche captain Joe Sakic was presented with the Stanley Cup, he immediately handed it to the 40-year-old defenseman as Bourque's family and 18,000 others tried to hold their own emotions in check.
"Just seeing Ray carry that cup around the ice makes you want to cry," said Colorado forward Dan Hinote. "It makes everything in the world seem right again."
Bourque, denied in 20 previous playoff appearances, could not have written a much more dramatic story line as he and the Colorado Avalanche erased a 3-2 series deficit and took the title from the defending champion New Jersey Devils.
After taking the trophy from Sakic, he raised it over his head, kissed it and skated about 50 feet from center ice before handing it back to Sakic.
"To lift the cup, what a feeling," Bourque said as he sat with his wife and three children. "I just can't describe it. It was something Joe wanted to talk about after Game 6 and I wouldn't let him."
Bourque's wife, Christiane, and his children were an active part of the adoring crowd. Christiane was near tears in the game's final seconds, and Bourque's teammates playfully tussled his helmet.
Less than a half-hour later, Bourque led his family through the halls of the Pepsi Center, interrupted briefly by a call from Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
"I guess that comes with the cup," Bourque said. "He said he was very happy for me and if I'm ever in the Ottawa area to stop by."
None of Bourque's previous eight Game 7s -- he is 8-1 in deciding games -- ended with a congratulatory phone call. They also lacked this much emotion, this much anticipation or this much satisfaction.
When it was over, he was able to trade his black "Mission 16W" baseball cap for a championship crown after Colorado's 16th win of the playoffs.
"In our heart, in our mind, we were playing for Ray," coach Bob Hartley said. "This entire community was pulling for Ray. I will remember coaching Ray Bourque until the day I close my little eyes."
In the postgame celebration, Bourque touched the cup for the first time in his life. He has long believed that only championship players should handle the cherished trophy.
Hoping to make a career-ending championship push, Bourque asked to be traded last year after more than 20 seasons with the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins obliged, sending Bourque to Colorado on March 6, 2000, and the Avs advanced to the Western Conference finals before being eliminated by the Dallas Stars for the second straight season.
Six months before his 40th birthday, Bourque signed a one-year contract last summer, a decision that prompted him to move his family to Denver. His daughter, Melissa, still attends high school in Boston while his wife and two sons live in Colorado.
"We are going to look back on it as a special time," Bourque said on the eve of Game 7. "I has been a fun ride, and that's why we all made the move. It wasn't easy making the move, but they knew why I was making it and now they are living it."
Avalanche fans have embraced Bourque as one of their own while Bruins fans cheer for him 2,000 miles away.
A Boston radio station purchased a Denver billboard wishing Bourque good luck in the finals, and half-Bruins, half-Avalanche jerseys have been spotted much to consternation of fashion critics everywhere.
"I can't say enough about Boston," Bourque said. "All my years in Boston were unbelievable. Everybody I played with certainly has a piece of this. The fans, I can't thank them enough for their support."
Bourque also started his own fashion trend with his "Mission 16W" cap representing the number of victories needed to win the cup. Throughout the playoffs, win or lose, he savored every moment. He never ducked an interview, politely answering repetitive questions about his unfilled Stanley Cup dream.
Already the highest scoring defenseman in NHL history with 410 goals and 1,169 assists, Bourque has an option to return next season. His teammates see no reason why he should retire.
"It's not his ability by any means," defenseman Rob Blake said. "He's as on top of his game as he ever has been. It amazes me to watch him game in and game out."
Hinote, who finished his first full NHL season, also has treasured his time with Bourque, calling the experience "priceless"
"Playing with him makes it a lot easier in the morning when I'm 24 years old and I'm sore and I'm tired and then I look across the locker room and he's 40, and he's all energetic and ready to go," Hinote said. "It certainly makes it a lot easier."
A sure Hall of Fame selection, Bourque said he will wait two or three weeks to make a decision on his future.
"I'm going to take a little time here to think about the future and get some rest," he said. "The minute I make a decision the hockey world's going to know about it."
On Saturday, he was content to enjoy the best moment of his