After that trip, no going back
Ordeals in 2000 led to trade request
TORONTO -- When the Bruins embarked on their annual February trip in 2000, prospects for a successful season were grim. They were racked with injuries, and the losing was weighing on everyone. Ray Bourque, who began playing in Boston in 1979, always thought he would finish his career in the black and gold, but he started rethinking that as the team started on a 1-9-3 stretch that ultimately resulted in missing the playoffs.
Bourque read the signs, and when the club stumbled through a 1-2-2 journey that included the infamous Marty McSorley assault on Donald Brashear in Vancouver, he decided that he had enough. As bad as their fortunes had been going to that point, that incident sucked all the life out of the team.
Bourque called president and then-general manager Harry Sinden and asked to be moved. It turned out to be a fateful change, as he was dealt to Colorado and went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2001.
"It wasn't like I woke up one morning and said I'm going to ask for a trade," said Bourque. "It was something that evolved when things weren't going that well, when it looked like we weren't going to make the playoffs.
"It wasn't much fun playing that year. I remember talking to [wife Christiane], saying that if we don't get on a roll here, I'm thinking this way and what do you feel? And she was on board.
"I remember going out for that long road trip and if we weren't going to have a good run on that trip, I had a decision to make once we were coming back, and I made that decision to call Harry and to ask for a trade. But it was a process that was on my mind for a little while."
Bourque, through all the trials and tribulations in Boston, had maintained a consistent stance that he wanted to stay put. His children and wife were happy and he considered Boston his home, so it was a genuine struggle to move past that to asking for his freedom.
"It was one [thing] that I was sad in a way that I had to think about," he said. "But at that point, I really felt it was important for me to challenge myself and to kind of get into a situation where I could find out if I had anything left in terms of being an important part to a team and if I was going to play after that year.
"I remember calling Harry, I remember that press conference at the airport that morning, I remember going to Denver and just feeling so weird for a few weeks. I said a certain tune for so long and I really had the intentions of retiring in Boston, but things changed and I felt a little guilty over that for a little while, too.
"But I got over that and really felt comfortable in Denver. It kind of took off there. I was having a good time and playing well and really felt energized and happy. I was feeling good about playing hockey again. That's what I was looking for. That next year, going back out there and having the year that we did and winning my last game, it was really a storybook ending for me."
At first, Bourque pushed hard for a deal that would send him to the Flyers and the Red Wings second, but Sinden had other ideas.
"I was asking for Philly because we were in the process of building a house and I didn't want to be all that far because I knew my family wasn't going to be coming out to visit," said Bourque. "It would make it easier for me to come, and in the East, Philly was kind of the team and I know they had a lot of interest. I knew Colorado was going to be interested but I was pushing Philly.
"Harry picked Colorado and he was right. He was right on. It's a great town and a beautiful place and the organization was fantastic. Pierre Lacroix makes it a priority to try to go after it every year so I knew we were going to be well-surrounded in terms of players and teammates. It all worked out."
Bourque developed a significant fan base during his illustrious career and said his biggest regret was not being able to celebrate a championship with all those who had been loyal to him.
"There's one thing that would've been better -- if it would've ended that way in Boston," he said. "That's my biggest regret, not being able to experience that here in Boston. By far, that's the one thing I could look back on that I regret. Other than that, I have none."
The absence of a Bruin banner is something brought home to him even more with the success of the Patriots and Red Sox.
"When I see those things, I know exactly what they're living," he said. "What I feel is, `Man, I would like so many other guys who I played with in Boston to live that.' It's an incredible feeling. I remember the parade, it just blew me away when we had it in Denver and I'm thinking, `Man, imagine this in Boston.'
"During the 1980s, the Celtics were winning, you saw it then, the parades and how much fun it looked. Then the Pats, two of the last three years and now the Red Sox, come on. The way they did it, it was just incredible.
"I just feel bad because there are so many loyal hockey fans in New England and you'd just like to give something back in that way for all of their support and for the guys, too. I played with so many great players and special guys. We got to two finals and just fell short. It would have been so much fun to cap it off and finish it off and live that."