By Adam Kaufman
When Chris Bourque was born, his dad, Ray, was 26 years old and in his seventh season with the Boston Bruins, well on the way to becoming a Hall of Famer and the greatest offensive defenseman to ever play the game.
|Despite leading the AHL in points this season, Chris Bourque never earned a call-up to the Capitals. (Getty Images)|
For the next 14 years, Ray continued to call Boston home, before a 2000 trade to Colorado.
Like the early years for any child, those 14 seasons of being around the locker room, the guys, the smells, skates, sticks, pucks and the ice sculpted who Chris would become. It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted to be a professional hockey player, and it probably took no longer for him to decide he wanted to do it in the same city his father became a legend.
Fast forward to May 26, 2012, about 5 p.m., and Chris, now 26 as well, saw his phone ringing.
After seven seasons of his own spent playing hockey in the minor leagues, overseas and a modest 33 NHL games with Pittsburgh and Washington, the team that drafted him with its second pick back in 2004, it was Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli calling. Soon after, Capitals general manager George McPhee phoned.
Chris Bourque, just over a month from unrestricted free agency, had been traded to the Bruins for former first-round pick Zach Hamill, a play-making center whose talents never quite translated to the big leagues with Boston.
“It’s been a great day,” Bourque said when reached by phone shortly after the trade. “It’s the first time I’ve been traded and to get traded to the Bruins was obviously a dream come true for me. It’s where my dad spent most of his career. To be traded to the organization he played in so long, it’s an honor.”
Ray played most of 21 of his 22 seasons in the NHL calling the Garden home, before that trade to the Avalanche delivered him the opportunity to win a long-coveted Stanley Cup championship in 2001 and skate off into the sunset. His heart, though, never left Boston, even bringing the Cup back for a rally in the city, long before the local teams started delivering titles in bunches.
“I got to tell him the news,” Chris said of informing his father. “He was obviously stunned. I didn’t really expect to get traded because I’m going to be a free agent soon. I didn’t know it was a possibility. Then, to get a call was shocking and to hear it was the Bruins was incredible. I think the whole family kind of feels that way.”
Chris last played in the NHL during the 2009-10 season, spending 20 games with the Penguins and just one with the Capitals before playing internationally during the 2010-11 season in order to take a break from affiliated hockey and mentally regroup.
He returned to Hershey, Washington’s top affiliate, last season and led the AHL in scoring with a career-best 93 points on 27 goals and 66 assists in 73 regular-season games, worthy of a spot on the league’s First All-Star Team. Chris added another four points in five playoff games, though fell well short of a fourth Calder Cup championship.
But, despite the massive on-ice production, the call to join the Capitals never came. So, needless to say, it wasn’t that strange getting dealt from a Washington team that upset defending-champion Boston in the first round of this year’s postseason.
“I wasn’t really a part of that team,” Chris admitted. “I’ve always been a Boston fan. I was at almost every game last year when they won the Cup. I’m from Boston, I’ve lived here, I’ve grown up here and this is where I call home in the summers and, hopefully, in the near future. It’s not really weird to get traded here. When I got the phone call and they told me I was going to Boston, I almost feel like it’s not really real. It feels like a dream. I’m very happy.”
Provided Chris signs with the Bruins, something many might view as a formality, the next step is vying to make Boston’s roster, one that over the past few years always has found room for a productive forward.
Still, Chris isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I don’t have many expectations going in,” he said “I want to be in great shape entering training camp. I know the Bruins have a great, young team and they won the Cup last year. I follow them closely. They’re my favorite team for obvious reasons and I definitely know what they have for players.
“I really can’t control the decisions that Mr. Chiarelli and his staff make,” Chris continued. “It’s just me going into training camp in the best shape I can and making the best impression that I can on them to hopefully open some eyes and show them that I can play.”
Believe it or not, while the idea of playing for Boston may have been conceived in his mind before he could walk, the call with that possibility wasn’t even his biggest news this month.
On May 5, exactly three weeks prior to his trade to the Bruins, Chris and his wife, Kim, welcomed their first child and Ray’s first grandkid into the world. Fittingly enough for what could well be a long lineage of Bourque men to play in the NHL — his brother, Ryan, is in the New York Rangers’ system — it was a boy.
His name, Kingston Ray Bourque.
Because some people believe good things happen in threes, it seemed natural to ask Chris what’s to come.
“My sister’s having a baby in about three weeks,” he laughed. “That’s probably next.”