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Ray Bourque discusses his famous career

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Legendary defenceman Ray Bourque was the keynote speaker at the Estevan Bruins Sportsman's Dinner on April 24. He discussed many of his career highlights, including his time with the Boston Bruins and his Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

The image remains one of the most popular and most endearing in hockey history.

Ray Bourque, the legendary NHL defenceman, lifted the Stanley Cup above his head for the first time in his life, after Bourque's Colorado Avalanche's beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup final.

And he did it in the final game of his 22-year NHL career.

Bourque was the keynote speaker at the Estevan Bruins' Sportsman's Dinner on April 24 at Affinity Place. Bourque captivated the audience by discussing his Stanley Cup-winning season with the Avalanche in 2001, and his 20-year career with the Boston Bruins.

He was the eighth overall pick by the Boston Bruins in the 1979 NHL Draft – the draft that many consider the best in NHL history.

"The teams that pick first or second are typically not very good," said Bourque. "I went to a team that had just lost in the semi-final, that has a rich history, and was really established, and I was going to a place where it would be a lot of fun to play."

Bourque was born in Montreal, and was a big Montreal Canadiens fan growing up, but those allegiances ended when he was selected by Boston.

He won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in 1979-80, set a league record for points by a rookie defenceman with 65, and was named a first-team all-star.

Bourque said that rookie campaign gave him a lot of confidence.

"I had a really good camp, and I got off to a great start," he said. "So I thought I'd be okay. But you're never satisfied, regardless of what you do. Even that year, you want to do it better and better."

He remained with the Bruins until late in the 1999-2000 season.

During his Boston tenure, he won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenceman five times, was named a first-team or second-team all-star 18 times, and helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup final in 1988 and 1990.

He also won the Canada Cup with Team Canada in 1984 and 1987.

He was also part of a famous moment in Boston Bruins' history: the night the club retired Phil Esposito's No. 7 jersey in December of 1987.

Bourque had worn No. 7 since his rookie year. But Boston and Esposito finally ended a long-standing feud, enabling the Bruins to retire Esposito's jersey.

"I got a call at 1 p.m. (that day) from Terry O'Reilly, who was coaching our team, and he said 'I'm sitting with Harry (Bruins' GM Harry Sinden), and he wants to know if you'd be willing to change your number, and add a seven, and become No. 77."

Bourque wore No. 7 in the pre-game warm-up, then put a No. 77 jersey under his No. 7 uniform. During the jersey retirement ceremony, Bourque removed the No. 7 jersey, and handed it to Esposito.

It was a great moment, Bourque said, and it worked out well, in part, because so few people knew what Bourque would do.

"For the first time ever, we saw Phil Esposito speechless," Bourque said.

Bourque would wear No. 77 for the rest of his career.

The Bruins were a strong team for most of Bourque's tenure, but never won a Stanley Cup. They were going to miss the playoffs in 1999-2000, and Bourque, wanting one more chance at a championship, asked for a trade.

The wish was granted, and he was shipped to the powerful Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado lost to the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals, so he decided to return for one more year.

The Avalanche's chances of winning the championship seemed bleak after losing 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the 2001 Stanley Cup final. But they rallied to win Game 6 in New Jersey, and won Game 7 on home ice.

The Stanley Cup final was surreal, he said, because he knew he was retiring, and the final moments of Game 7 are still vivid.

"I was sitting on the bench, and thinking 'Man, this is going to happen. This is really going to happen. I'm going to win the Cup,'" said Bourque.

In the last couple minutes, players wanted Bourque to be on the ice, but Bourque – short of breath and ready to faint due to the excitement – wanted to be on the bench.

"We won the Cup … and then I had flashbacks about everyone I'd played with in Boston," said Bourque. "It's one of my biggest regrets, not being able to win this in Boston, playing all those years there with all those great players."

After the game, Avalanche captain Joe Sakic was presented the Stanley Cup by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Sakic immediately handed the Cup to Bourque, who celebrated to the delight of so many fans.

"They handed me the cup a few different times (during the celebration)," he said.

Bourque says he likely could have continued playing after 2001. He was a first-team all-star and a Norris Trophy finalist in his final season

"Mentally, to get to where you need to get to every day, to be the best you can be, I just didn't know if I had that, so that's why I retired," said Bourque.

He retired as the league's all-time leader in goals (410) and points (1,597) for defencemen.

His commitment to conditioning was a big part of his longevity, he said.

"I met a special person when I was 14 years old," said Bourque. "It was my high school gym teacher who had a track-and-field team in Montreal. His name was Ben Leduc … and he's the guy that trained me throughout my whole career. I started working with him when I was 16 years old."

The Sportsman's Dinner is the Bruins' largest fundraiser of the year. Nearly 500 tickets were sold for the event. There was also a live auction and a silent auction; the live auction had nearly $140,000 in gross income.

Saskatchewan Roughriders' head coach Corey Chamblin and slotback Chris Getzlaf were the other speakers at the banquet. And several awards were handed out during the evening. (Please see page 27 for more on Chamblin and Getzlaf's speeches, and for coverage of the awards presentations).

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