Bourque pulling for Avalanche in Final 21 years after he hoisted Cup

Whether the defender of the Hall of Fame will see the first games is not yet certain.

Bourque, a member of the 2000-01 Stanley Cup winner AvalancheHe was due to leave Boston on Friday to travel to Italy with his wife Christiane to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Game 1 takes place in Denver on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ABC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“I’m hoping to catch some hockey, but it’s not going to be easy,” Bourque said Thursday from Boston on the 21st anniversary of the Avalanche’s 2001 Stanley Cup win.

He’s thrilled that Colorado has had four wins at the 2022 championship, the team’s first trip to the Finals since he made that trip 21 years ago. With Colorado, he finally won after 22 NHL seasons, nearly 21 of them with the Boston Bruins Stanley cupthe crowning glory for the 1979-80 Calder Trophy Winner of the league’s Rookie of the Year and five times Norris Trophy Winner for Best Defenseman in the NHL.

“I think the Avalanche is such an exciting team, it’s so much fun to watch,” said Bourque. “They’ve been knocking on the door for the last three years but couldn’t get through the second round to smash the door for some reason. It wasn’t a lack of talent. It’s fun to see them reach the finals again. I will cheer for them big time.

Still based in Boston, Bourque says he also draws for the Bruins and has fond memories of the Bruins’ seven-game, ultimately unsuccessful run in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues with his two sons and grandson .

“At the beginning of each season I hope the Bruins and Avalanche meet in the finals – I can’t lose like that,” he joked. “It is exciting. This city (Denver) is a fabulous place, I had such a great experience there with my family. It was a special 14, 15 months that we will never forget.”

[RELATED: Complete Avalanche vs. Lightning series coverage]

Bourque was traded from the Bruins to the Avalanche with forward Dave Andreychuk in a multiplayer deal on March 6, 2000, the trade being a favor for the popular defender in a thinly veiled bid to land him the Stanley Cup that has bestowed him two decades had long eluded In Boston.

Things didn’t pan out in 2000, when the Avalanche lost a seven-game Western Conference Finals to the Dallas Stars.

“It didn’t take long before I got to Denver to know I had something left in the tank,” Bourque said. “I knew I would come back for another season.”

Video: Bourque on winning the cup at the end of his career

He sat down with Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix and told him he wanted a one-year contract to win the Stanley Cup.

“Pierre said, ‘No, I’ll give you a two-year contract’, but I only wanted one,” he said. “Whether we won or lost in 2001, only my wife knew I would only play one more year.

“So Pierre gave me a two-year contract. I made $6 million and asked for the same salary. He said, ‘I’ll pay you $5 million this year, $6 million next year. If you don’t come back, I’ll give you this $1 million to make your $6 million. “

Bourque turned 40 in December 2000 and finished the 2000-01 regular season level on points with Rob Blake in third place among defensemen with 59 points. His 52 assists were third among defenders and he was sixth on ice at 26:06 per game.

The Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Western Conference, took seven games in the second round against the Los Angeles Kings, and then defeated the Blues in a five-game Western Conference Finals.

Colorado trailed the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in the Finals but responded with a 4-0 away win in Game 6 and sent it back to Denver for a winner-take-all Game 7.

“The last two games were really special for me because I knew Game 6 could be my last game in the NHL,” Bourque recalled. “I knew I wasn’t going to play another year. I invited all of my wife’s family, my family and my closest friends to this game because I knew it might be my last. When we won Game 6 I took everyone to Denver and I knew it was definitely my last game.

“It was a really great feeling to record everything. Going into Game 7 I knew how important it was what the stakes were, my last try, I can’t tell you I slept very much that afternoon. I haven’t gotten very many butterflies in the last 10 years of my career, having been through pretty much every situation, but on that day I had them.”

Everyone on the Avalanche roster, from the front office to Captain Joe Sakic to every player on the roster, wanted to win Game 7 for Bourque as much as they did for themselves. Colorado led 3-0 in the second third at 6:16.

“I’ve worked with sports psychologists over the years – we had a really good one in Boston called Fred Neff who I’ve worked with a lot – about staying in the moment, staying present, thinking about the process, not the outcome, ‘ Bouque said. “But I’ll tell you, it was very difficult not to think about the result when you’re sitting on the bench 3-0 and saying to yourself, ‘I’m going to win the trophy’ when there’s almost half a game left. Trying to stay in the present was quite a test.”

Bourque would play a game-high 29:35 in the 3-1 win, though not necessarily by choice.

“They didn’t let me off the ice for the last three minutes, they wanted to make sure I was on the ice by the last buzzer,” he said, laughing. “I tried to escape a couple of times and they just threw me out of there. They just showed my big head on the scoreboard. I thought I was going to faint and they would pick me up on a stretcher and I wouldn’t see the moment of the trophy handover.”

But actually, Bourque was on the ice at the Pepsi Center when Commissioner Gary Bettman presented Sakic with the Stanley Cup.

But instead of turning the usual victory lap, Sakic immediately handed the trophy to Bourque, who happily squeezed it over the head and planted a kiss on his sterling barrel.

Bourque had played 1,612 regular season games with an additional 214 in the postseason. And how he stood there on shaky legs, the Stanley Cup in his hand, touching it for the first time in his life.

He had played the most games, both regular season and regular season and playoffs combined, of any player before winning the trophy.

“It has to be my favorite of them all,” he said of the game. “There are others — your first game in the NHL, your first Stanley Cup final in 1988 against the Edmonton Oilers, finally getting there, having a chance to play for the trophy. There are many special games but the ultimate prize is game 7. You know when you win and you end up with the cup, that’s special.

“I don’t have to close my eyes to see Joe. After game 6 he wanted so badly to win and he wanted so badly for me to lift the trophy first. That says so much about Joe as a person and as a teammate and what a noble guy he is. You never see that the captain doesn’t raise the trophy first. I will never forget that he allowed me to do that that evening. I tell people Joe won the Hart Trophy that year, but that assist, he gave me the trophy, was the best game he made all year.

“When you first lift the cup, it’s light. Hold it overhead for a while, it gets heavy quickly, but you won’t mind this type of workout. The story above your head is amazing I’m telling you if your name is on the cup it’s been there for about 60 years, there’s nothing like it. Nothing even remotely comparable.

Twenty-one years later, Bourque hopes the Avalanche can smash down that door again and experience all that comes with winning hockey’s holy grail.

He just wasn’t very optimistic that he would find a restaurant or espresso bar in Italy that would show the games at 2 a.m. local time.

“I’ll see the updates and stay tuned, that’s for sure,” Bourque said. “Maybe I’ll tell my boys to tape the games.”

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