Boston sports fans have learned, over the years, to cherish their heroes. Partly because we haven't had any recent championships to celebrate--the last time the Celtics won a championship was in 1986, the Bruins haven't hoisted Lord Stanley's cup since 1972 and our beloved Red Sox are still fighting that Curse--but partly because Boston heroes are of a special breed. Those who we admire most are the ones we take for granted.
For this reason, it was a bittersweet feeling to see ex-Boston Bruins captain Ray Bourque take the ice last night wearing white and red, instead of black and gold. Bourque, who was originally drafted by the Bruins in 1979, was traded to Colorado on Monday. After 21 illustrious years with a now-flailing organization, Bourque--who has never won a Stanley Cup--deserves a legitimate chance to win hockey's highest prize before retirement.
At the same time, Bourque will be sorely missed. Although Bourque is certainly not Boston's greatest hockey player, he is certainly one of the greatest. On paper, he is a five-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman and holds the record for most regular-season goals among defensemen in NHL history. The Associated Press ranked Bourque the 10th best hockey player of the 20th century.
More important than statistics, however, Bourque was the cornerstone for his team and an icon for Boston hockey fans. He was to the Bruins what Cal Ripken was to the Orioles or Ted Williams was to the Red Sox. Bourque's 21 years with a single team--longer than the entire careers of most NHL players--earns him a special place in our hearts. Quiet and soft-spoken, Bourque was dependable for his loyalty, consistency and devotion to the game.
Boston hockey fans often muse, not without a little pride, that "the Gahden just hasn't been the same since Bobby Orr left." In a few years, we know the same will be said about Raymond Bourque.
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