Wednesday, March 22, 2023

My Ray Bourque Hot Take

I’m going to be a sports blogger today. Specifically, I’m going to be a hockey blogger. After a multiple-year hiatus (stupid Covid), the hockey road trip returned this year with a stop in Denver to see the Colorado Avalanche. I’ll probably have multiple posts about the trip over the next few weeks. Today, I want to write about this.

Pictured are retired numbers of Colorado Avalanche players. The one that jumped out to me is #77 Ray Bourque. Bourque is one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the National Hockey League. He played nearly his entire career in Boston and was traded to Colorado to give him a chance of achieving a Stanley Cup championship. Even though he was at the end of his career, the trade was a really big deal. I think most Bruins fans are and were disappointed that Bourque didn’t play his entire career in Boston, but are and were happy that he won a title. 

Bourque played 14 regular season games for the Avalanche in 2000 after being traded from Boston tallying 8 goals and 6 assists. He then played 13 playoff games as the Avalanche lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Dallas Stars in the conference finals. The next season, Bourque played 80 regular season games and helped lead the team to the title with 4 goals and 6 assists in 21 playoff games. Overall, Bourque played 93 regular season games and 34 playoff games in Colorado. So my question is why is his number retired?

I understand that Bourque is a Hall-of-Famer and helped lead the team to a Stanley Cup title. However, this was not the team’s first championship and his tenure was less than a year and a half. Since I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, my comparison to Bourque is Bryan Trottier, who won 4 Stanley Cups and a Hart Trophy as league MVP during his Hall-of-Fame tenure on the New York Islanders. Trottier joined the Penguins at the age of 34 before the 1990-1991 season and played 115 regular games with 20 goals and 37 assists over two seasons (and played another 41 games in the 1993-1994 season). More importantly, Trottier played 44 playoff games in the 90-91 and 91-92 seasons with a combined 7 goals and 7 assists and earned two more Stanley Cup titles. With players like Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and Jaromir Jagr among others, Trottier wasn't close to being the team's top star, but he brought leadership and experience to the Penguins like Bourque did to the Avalanche. The difference is that it's likely that the Penguins organization probably never considered retiring Trottier's number. (The fact that the Penguins have only retired two numbers could be a topic for a completely separate post.)

Two other thoughts from the game. First, defenseman Cale Makar scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Even though he's only in his fourth season, he's done significantly more on the ice in Colorado than Bourque. Retire his number now!

Second, Peter Forsberg, another player who (deservedly) has his number retired was in attendance. He could easily pass as a social studies teacher or history or psychology professor now!   

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