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Old Reliable
Leigh Montville
February 17, 1997
In 17 years in Boston the incomparable Raymond Bourque has never won a Stanley Cup—but you'll never hear him complain
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February 17, 1997

Old Reliable

In 17 years in Boston the incomparable Raymond Bourque has never won a Stanley Cup—but you'll never hear him complain

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"Bergeron was looking for 19-year-olds to win the Memorial Cup," Raymond Sr. says. "Didn't do it either. I see him sometimes, and he still says that was the worst trade he ever made."

By the time Ray was 20 he owned his first house, in Danvers. He wanted to rent from Wensink, who had been traded, but Wensink wanted to sell. Bourque bought, living for a year with teammate Steve Kasper, who is now the Bruins' coach. By the time Bourque was 21, he was married. He had known his wife, Christiane, since they were 11 years old, skating at the same neighborhood rink in Montreal. ("It's great when you marry someone you have known that long," Bourque says. "We go back to Montreal, and we don't have to visit her friends and then my friends, because they're all our friends, the same friends.")

The years and seasons simply followed, piling up, with a curious lack of fanfare for such a public person. Bourque's Bruins teams mostly have been middle-of-the-pack outfits, low on scoring, low on something, but never really bad. There were two runs to the Stanley Cup finals, in 1988 and 1990, but both ended with blowouts by the Edmonton Oilers, who were almost invincible. Bourque simply has kept going, doing the same good things.

He and Christiane, who didn't know a word of English when she arrived in Boston, lived in the Wensink house for 11 years. They had a daughter, Melissa, and then a son, Christopher, and built an addition to the house. Then their second son, Ryan, arrived. Ray decided to have a new house built. He bought a lot in the Boston suburb of Boxford. The lot was across the street from the house of former Bruins great Johnny Bucyk. Bourque now lives across the street from Bucyk. Bourque broke the Bruins scoring record of 1,339 points on Feb. 1 with a goal in a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The record had belonged to Bucyk. Tidy. Everything tidy.

"I've seen every one of those points, every game Raymond has played," Bucyk, a commentator on Bruins radio broadcasts, says. "Great player. Great neighbor."

"It's all been amazing to me," Bourque says. "I was just trying to play in this league. That's all I ever wanted. I've sort of seen the end of one era in this sport, the beginning of another. I came in, and I was making $100,000, and that was great. Then salaries went up, and guys were making $500,000, and that was great. Now they're making millions, and it's great. It's all so much more than I ever expected." (Bourque is in the fourth year of a five-year, $12.5 million contract.)

He finally is getting the same kind of acclaim that Yastrzemski got, his career numbers having grown so large that they cannot be ignored. He plans to play at least two more seasons, during which he will hit an assortment of milestones. The scoring record will be only one of a list of Bruins career marks he will hold.

"The most remarkable thing is how long he has been this good," Sinden says. "He came to Boston the same year Larry Bird came, and Bird is long gone. To think of the things that can happen with injury, age, whatever, and to see zero slippage, zero, it's a remarkable story. Who's been like Ray? Gordie Howe. Maybe the shortstop in Baltimore. And his demeanor, his manner, have been beyond reproach. You see what's happening in sports and then to see him—it's corny, but he's a credit to this profession, this professional athlete profession."

The one record Bourque has but would like to change is Most seasons, one team, never won Stanley Cup—Raymond Bourque, Boston, 17. That does not appear likely to change. The Bruins, who at week's end were 20-27-7 and tied for last place with the Ottawa Senators in the North-cast Division, are doomed to play 19 of their final 28 games on the road. The team probably will finish lower than any of Bourque's previous teams. The future does not look much brighter.

If he were a different sort of superstar, he would be dropping sly little requests to be traded, using the old "I want a ring before I retire" strategy, but that is not the craftsman's style. Move? He did that when he was 15 and didn't like it. His home is here. His life is here. Is a ring more important than a home and a life?

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