"It took a long time, but the timing was perfect," Bourque said. "For me, this is a pretty neat finish. It means I retire as a champion."
An emotional Bourque dabbed at his eyes and choked back tears several times at his retirement news conference at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
"To compete at the highest level of this game, you have to be mentally prepared every night," Bourque said. "Honestly, that gets tougher and tougher to do after 22 seasons.
"I could have played another two or three years, but I don't think I would have played at the same level. I've always wanted to go out on my terms and playing at the level I've been accustomed to playing. There are some things you can't do anymore. You make some adjustments, but you just can't react as quick, and I knew I wasn't going to get any quicker."
Bourque appeared in 19 All-Star games, won the Norris Trophy five times and finished as the runner-up for the Norris five other times. Bourque won the Calder Trophy in 1980 as the league's top rookie for the 1979-80 season when he tallied 65 points and a plus-52 as a 19-year-old in Boston.
Bourque played for 20 1/2 seasons in Boston, but he requested a trade to a contender in March 2000 in hopes of winning an NHL title. He finally got it when the Avalanche beat the Devils for the Stanley Cup on June 9, 2001.
Bourque's 410 goals and 1,579 points in 1,612 regular-season games make him the highest-scoring defenseman in league history.
Bourque will be remembered as one of the best three-zone defenseman in the history of the NHL. He didn't expand the game. He was not a pioneer. He didn't have any wrinkles in his game that other defensemen before him didn't have. But what made Bourque so special, and certainly one of the top five defensemen over the past 50 years, was his excellence over an extended period and his excellence in all phases of the game. His name will forever be mentioned in the lofty company of Eddie Shore, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Larry Robinson as the best defensemen ever to play the game.
Although Bourque's stint in Colorado lasted just 15 months, his No. 77 jersey will be retired and will hang from the rafters of Pepsi Center, Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said.
"Ray's contributions to our hockey club were tremendous and will never be forgotten," Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said.
Bourque's jersey is the first to be retired in the six-year history of the Avalanche and the fifth in the history of the franchise, which originated as the Quebec Nordiques.
Bruins president Harry Sinden said that the team will also retire Bourque's number next season.
"He's a slam dunk as far as the Bruins are concerned. It's something we've known for a number of years," Sinden said. "We waited for his official retirement, and we'll pick an appropriate game this coming season to do it."
Bourque said he decided before the 2000-2001 season that it would be his last, regardless of his team's accomplishments.
"The voice in my head kept saying the same thing," Bourque said. "I knew I was leaving after this year. I was just hoping it could finish like this. This is the one thing I was chasing for so long and hoped I was going to be able to hoist."
Bourque's quest for the Cup became the stuff of legends. It took him 1,825 games before he won the 109-year-old silver chalice. The Avs' victory took Bourque's name off the top of the ignominious list of most career games without winning a Stanley Cup.
"Many of you have asked why I am retiring at a time when I am still playing pretty well," Bourque said. "By far the most important factor is my desire to be around my children."
Family matters became more important for Bourque since his trade to the Avalanche. Bourque's wife, Christiane, and their children, aged 17, 15 and 10, stayed in Boston after he was traded.
"Frankly, I also have had a strong commitment to myself never to stay too long in the game. Also, we are still on cloud nine having won the Stanley Cup and having achieved that goal kind of rounds out my career.
"It's been a wonderful, happy, terrific 22 years."
The Associated Press and Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber contributed to this report.