MIDDLETON -- He wasn't supposed to have a cell phone on the golf course at Salem Country Club, so he switched off for the first nine holes. When he reached the back nine, however, Ray Bourque didn't think anyone would mind if he turned it back on, considering the significance of the call he was awaiting.
On the 13th hole, it came. Jim Gregory, the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, was on the line to tell Bourque he had just been elected to the hallowed Hall. It was a fitting final honor on his stellar resume. A Stanley Cup in 2001. Five Norris Trophies. A record 19 consecutive NHL All-Star games. A total of 1,612 regular-season games played and 1,579 points. He played 214 more playoff contests, scoring 180 more points. He finished his career as the all-time leader among defensemen in goals (410), assists (1,169), and points (1,579). His retired sweater hangs in the rafters in two cities -- Boston and Denver.
A formal ceremony will be held Nov. 8 in Toronto, where the Hall is located. Bourque will be joined by Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy in the players' category and Phoenix Coyotes executive Cliff Fletcher, who was elected in the builders' category.
"I really didn't know how I was going to react," said the 43-year-old Bourque during a news conference at the Sheraton Ferncroft late yesterday afternoon. "It gave me goosebumps, and I couldn't hit my next chip shot -- not that I'm a good chipper.
"It's the best of the best, and being part of that group is truly an honor and a privilege. It's incredible to me. I played in Boston for over 20 years and then went to another special place -- Colorado -- for 15 months. It was an incredible ride." Bourque still remembers his first NHL game, as an 18-year-old on Oct. 11, 1979, against the Winnipeg Jets. He scored his first goal, earned his first assist, and was named the game's first star. During the second period, the Bruins won the draw back to him, Bourque said he fired "the weakest wrist shot I might have ever taken," and it went off two skates and in during the Bruins' 4-0 victory.
From his debut, he evolved into one of the most dominant blueliners in the game. He was as strong as a bull, logged Herculean minutes, and was as reliable and steady off the ice as he was on. He said he felt fortunate to start his career with a veteran club that took him under its wing. He relied on Brad Park and all the other experienced players to teach him the ropes. They mentored him, protected him, and Bourque went on to do the same for those who came behind him.
Bourque said yesterday was special because his oldest child, Christopher, is heading for the NHL draft in Raleigh, N.C., later this month. At the same time an era was ending, he's seeing the beginning of another.
"For me, this is the final chapter, the Hall of Fame," he said. Then he put his hand on his son's shoulder. "This is the next chapter -- Christopher. For me, this kind of wraps it up. Not much more is going to happen in terms of things coming my way. Chris is going to Raleigh, and he's going to get drafted. He's going to BU and he has a passion for the game and he does very well at it. I love watching him. I love the way he plays. It's a blast for me."
Bourque said he's content to watch his son's progress and is very involved in the lives of his other children, daughter Melissa and son Ryan. He still is asked if he would like to return to the game he played for 22 years as a pro, and he said the answer is easy: Absolutely not.
"I don't miss the game," he said. "In some ways, I feel sad about saying that, and I've said that since right off the bat. I never really missed the game once I retired. At times you missed being scheduled the way you would. Or acting like a 15-year-old every day. But the actual game, that was getting tougher and tougher. I was 40 years old. Your left hip is acting up and you need treatments for this or you need treatments for that. The preparing and having the energy and mental strength [needed] to play well. It's very tough at 40 years old. "It's a young man's game. I was so happy to be able to play at the level I did for so long. Walking out on my terms is incredible."
Bourque said he had a vicarious thrill Monday night, watching former teammate Dave Andreychuk, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, win his first Cup. He said he knows exactly how Andreychuk felt, playing in his first finals after 22 seasons. "He was really a true professional and a great guy who had so much fun at it," said Bourque. And [with Tampa Bay] winning it and seeing him hoist the Cup, it just brought everything back. It was awesome."
In a career full of highlights, there are precious few regrets. One of them was not being able to bring a Cup to Boston in 20-plus years. However, Bourque is very much a part of the fabric of Bruins' lore. His permanent residence is on the North Shore, he is a tireless contributor to charitable causes, and he's enjoying the fruits of his labors. Yesterday, another of his dreams came true.
And if hockey was on his mind for most of yesterday, Bourque is enjoying his time swinging the clubs, too. When asked if he was able to finish his round after the phone call, he smiled.
"I shot a 78," he said. "From the back tees, and it was a good day. I had five birdies and kicked someone's butt."