"Right. Every week of the summer, Ray comes over to help me take out the tenants' garbage."
When Bourque arrived in Boston the Bruins were down in the dumps. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the playoffs in his rookie year and then were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs in his sophomore season. The drought continued, Boston losing to Montreal in the opening round the last three years. This season after the Bruins won just five of their first 13 games. Butch Goring was fired as coach. His successor, O'Reilly, is a hard-nosed alumnus of the Bruins; his 2.095 career penalty minutes accrued between 1972 and '83 still is a team record.
O'Reilly has dragged the Bruins back to respectability. Since he took over, Boston has gone 26-20-4 and at week's end was only six points behind first-place Hartford in the Adams Division. "I love playing for the guy." Bourque says. "There's more intensity, more excitement. Terry has simplified the game and made it fun. He has given some of the older guys their roles back and made them feel important again. He has great respect for everybody." Especially Bourque. "Without Ray." says O'Reilly flatly, "we wouldn't be a contender for the Stanley Cup."
All offense-minded defensemen inevitably are compared with Orr, but because he plays for Orr's old team Bourque has been scrutinized more closely than most. Bruin general manager Harry Sinden outraged the Boston press last month just by suggesting that Bourque is playing at "an Orr level." Sinden's judgment may be a bit premature. Orr won eight Norris Trophies, three MVP awards and led Boston to two Stanley Cup championships.
"Bourque is certainly the best defenseman in the league this season." says Nanne. "But he's no Orr. He's not as physical or as mean and he doesn't have Orr's uncanny sense of anticipation." Even Bourque resists the idea. "I'm not Bobby Orr, that's for sure." he says. "Nobody playing defense will ever control the game as well as he did. I'd be happy just to be half the player he was. People will look at me for who I am, and I think I'm finally approaching my potential. Great players need skill and talent, but more important, they've got to have the confidence that comes from consistency and hard work."
"When Ray first got here he was just a shy French-Canadian kid who only loosened up on the ice," says Milbury, a veteran of 11 Bruin campaigns. "But when he was named co-captain [in 1985] he took the role to heart. He has become a leader who takes young players aside, gives hell to older ones and never lets the locker room get too tight. I asked him what he wanted to do after he was out of hockey, and he said lie was thinking of working for the Department of Public Works. I think Ray just wants to be together with a group of other guys He thrives in that sort of atmosphere."
In the rumpus room of Bourque's home on Boston's North Shore, one-year-old Christopher toddles around, brandishing the plastic hockey stick he always carries. He slashes the couch, pokes the rocking horse and swats his pacifier across the carpet. When he nearly decapitates his sister, Bourque shouts. "High-sticking! That's two minutes in the crib."
Christopher accepts the penalty without complaint. He lies down and falls asleep hugging his pillow, like any great hockey player.