MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Ray Bourque sleeps with the Stanley Cup.
"I've got a tattoo of the Stanley Cup on my right thigh," says the Bruins legend, who parted with the team after nearly 21 seasons and won a Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in the last game of his career, in 2001.
He smiles at the thought, as the image of the 19-time All-Star defenseman walking into a New Hampshire tattoo parlor sinks in.
"It hurt when I had it done . . . and no, no, I was stone sober."
It's between periods of an American Hockey League semifinal playoff game between the Manchester Monarchs and the Hershey Bears at the
The elder Bourque, 46, sits with family and friends in a luxury box. He acknowledges being "very, very nervous" and he wipes the sweat from his huge palms on his blue jeans and sips a little red wine. No fist pumping here. He's decidedly low key, sitting next to daughter Melissa and politely applauding as Hershey builds a 2-0 lead en route to a 3-1 victory and a trip to Hamilton to try to retain the Calder Cup.
If he gets too stressed, he's guaranteed an appointment at Maison Esthetique Christiane Bourque Spa, the Danvers day spa his wife owns.
"It's tough being a parent watching your kid play," Bourque says. "It's real exciting. You are nervous. You know as a player you're in control and you kind of know what you're doing. Here, you can't control nothing. You just watch and hope that things go well for him."
"It's fun, and it gets me back in the building," he says.
He also likes to stop off at Tresca's, a high-end, open-aired North End eatery that he co-owns.
Bourque, a big baseball fan (his father once thought he was good enough to play for the Expos and he has hit batting practice homers over the Green Monster), calls in his dinner order as he leaves Fenway Park after an interview. His SUV is stuffed with younger son Ryan's hockey equipment.
What's a French Canadian doing in the Italian restaurant business?
"God knows I ate enough Italian as a hockey player," says Bourque.
"Tresca" means "intrigue" in Italian. Why not just call the place "Bourque's "?
"That's a good question," says the captain.
The place is bathed in the warm yellow tones of a Tuscan villa. The second floor has a tiny patio and a table for two that hovers over Hanover Street.
"It's the most romantic table in the city," says Bourque, relaxing with Ryan after polishing off the pollo romano, a grilled chicken breast topped with arugula and grilled asparagus served with a creamy corn and sage polenta. There's zero hockey memorabilia here; the only Bourque touch is his insistence on a 50-inch high-definition plasma TV at the bar "to watch the games."
These days, Bourque gets up at 7:30 every morning, works out, runs errands -- which include taking his two Shih Tzus to the Doggie Spa -- plays golf ("a good round is under 80"), and does charity work.
"He's never said no," says former Boston University hockey player Travis Roy, whose foundation helps those with spinal-cord injuries and funds research for a cure. "I'm not a big celebrity guy, but clearly when he shows up it's a huge benefit."
Roy, who was largely paralyzed from the neck down after an accident just 11 seconds into his first college hockey game, says his first meeting with Bourque was "the neatest story."
"I had gone to a Bruins game and was rolling out the back door of the Garden," says Roy. "I was all by myself. A BMW drove past me and after almost 100 feet it came to a sudden stop. The brake lights went into reverse and it backed up.
"It was Ray Bourque. He said, 'You're Travis Roy and I just wanted to shake your hand and tell you much I think of you and how highly I think of you.' I grew up watching him, so it was a really nice moment."
There may not have been a single complaint from Bruins fans.
"Nobody, nobody," says Bourque, shrugging and smiling. "I'm a lucky guy. They knew the situation. They knew I was very loyal. I think they know I left for one reason and it was to win the Cup, and looking at our team at that point, there was no way that was going to happen in Boston. That's why I think people understood it."
TV ratings for the Cup finals were higher in Boston than anywhere except Denver.
"I didn't know how people were going to react, but I realized pretty quick that people were staying up late watching the games and just following me and cheering for me," Bourque remembers. "And when I came back that summer, I couldn't believe it -- everybody I ran into told me how late they were staying up to watch me. People know exactly where they were June 9 when I won the Cup."
U2 was playing the Garden that night. The Edge wore a Bourque jersey, and Bono told the crowd, "Ray Bourque is 30 seconds from winning the Stanley Cup."
"I heard the place went nuts," says Bourque.
Bourque brought the Cup to Boston's City Hall Plaza several days later. "You deserve one," he told more than 15,000 cheering fans.
But Bourque doesn't think a Cup is imminent for the Bruins.
"I think they're on the right track signing [Zdeno] Chara and [Marc] Savard and drafting [Phil] Kessel," says Bourque.
But problems remain.
"There's a lack of depth with the Bruins," says Bourque. "Certain guys are used too much. Is it going to happen overnight? I don't think so, but hopefully they'll be able to sign a free agent and just keep adding to what they have."
Bourque's response to the suggestion that he was better than Orr: "No, no, and no. I think Bobby changed the game so much, and to do it from that position . . . winning the scoring title as a defenseman; 50 goals and doing it from that position is incredible."
Bourque was one of the most deadly shooters in the game, winning the accuracy shooting competition at the All-Star Game a record eight times.
"That was just my thing," said Bourque. "I can't believe more guys can't hit targets. A lot of guys go up there and try to rush. It's a matter of taking your time and trying to hit the targets. Some guys got nervous. I just had a lot of fun with it."
The five-time Norris Trophy winner as best defenseman says he never believed his clippings.
"You're never satisfied and you don't take yourself too seriously," Bourque explains. "Regardless of what I did today in practice or in a game, you've got to wake up the next morning and do it again and again.
"And if you have that kind of mind-set and mental toughness and are really passionate about what you are doing, that's going to make you the best you're going to be. Never looking back.
"I never wanted to jinx myself, saying, 'OK, things are going well,' or 'I've made it.' It was always about knocking myself down a little bit and just trying to be better, and better, and better."
"It's not staying mad with rage," says Bourque. The acronym stands for "Motivated Aggressive Determined."
"Setting goals for yourself, being a leader, making goals for yourself in the community or in school . . . that's the message we're trying to get out there," says Bourque.
He feels the same way about Chris, who left Boston University after just one season to join the Hershey Bears. Last week, Bourque was the grillmaster for a backyard barbecue for the team at his North Shore home.
"It's incredible to see him doing what he wants to do," Bourque says. "He has a passion for hockey. He always wanted to do it. He's one step away from his dream.
"He watched so much of my career, so it's pretty fun. He was a kid -- 14 years old -- watching you win the Cup and he recognizes everything that is going on. It's fun that he wants to be there someday and watching him get there. Working on his trade to get there is a blast.
"I think he's going to have an opportunity. Yeah, he's 21, it's his second year and he's had a really productive year this year, 25 goals, almost 60 points. I think it's just a matter of time. He's Washington Capitals property and hopefully that's where he's going to play, but who knows down the road?"
Bourque, of course, would love to see his son play for the Bruins. Could he call in some favors?
"No, no, I was just a player," Bourque says. "I'm not a GM. I'm not in charge of any of those decisions. But it's probably easier on him to start somewhere else. It's tough enough to have the name without playing in the same town."
After the game, Bourque is just one of many parents waiting patiently for their sons in the bowels of the Verizon Center. He shakes hands, then hugs his son.
"He's just a classy act," says Chris Bourque. "I've been around pro athletes all my life. Honestly, he's one of a kind. You won't find another guy like him. I'm just so lucky to have him as a dad."