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Bourque hype at full speed

Sentiment favors 22-year vet's pursuit of first Stanley Cup.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published May 31, 2001


DENVER -- Ray Bourque is sick of Ray Bourque.

Sick of seeing himself on television. Sick of reading about himself in the papers.

The Avalanche defenseman understands the feel-good story he would become if after 22 seasons he got to hoist the Stanley Cup. But when his name recently was slipped into an ABC promo for the Indianapolis 500 -- the network also is televising the Cup final -- Bourque had had enough.

"Probably like a lot of people, I'm getting tired of hearing about Ray Bourque," he said. "Ray Bourque this. Ray Bourque that. I mean, I'm here to do a job and play hockey and to try to win my first Cup.

"It is a great story. But until it happens, that's all it is, a story. In the meantime, I'm kind of getting sick of seeing my face all over the place." He gets a reprieve the next few days as the series against the defending champion Devils, tied 1-1, shifts to Continental Airlines Arena beginning with tonight's Game 3.

There will be no Ray Bourque signs around East Rutherford, N.J., and a few more reminders that not everyone is rooting for the 40-year-old Hall of Fame shoo-in to cap his career with a drink from the Cup.

Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko has been outspoken about his indifference to Bourque-mania.

"I've got the utmost respect for Ray Bourque," Daneyko said. "I think he's been a class guy. But there are guys on this team (the Devils) who haven't won, and guys on the other team.

"If he was playing for the New Jersey Devils, maybe I would root for him."

But Daneyko is the exception, and the praise coming from the Avalanche drowns out the party poopers.

Youngsters such as 21-year-old forward Alex Tanguay talk non-stop about the experience Bourque is imparting. Veterans such as defenseman Rob Blake and center Joe Sakic speak of winning one for Ray.

Even Bourque allows himself to dream.

"But not for long," he said. "I've got to stop myself because I know there is so much work to be done. But, yes, I have, and it's a pretty neat feeling. I don't know if I am going to get the opportunity again, but I am certainly enjoying it and visualizing a lot of things."

Bourque's first two tries at a Cup came with the Bruins, with whom he spent his first 20-plus seasons before being traded in March 2000. Boston was swept by the Oilers in 1988 and lost to Edmonton 4-1 in 1990.

Bourque has appeared in an NHL-record 21 playoffs. He is the NHL's all-time scorer among defenseman with 1,579 points on 410 goals and 1,169 assists, and he is a five-time winner of the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman.

Bourque doesn't need a Cup to validate his career, and he is quick to point out that his decision to play this season did not revolve around winning the Stanley Cup.

"I'm playing because I still have the passion for it and the fun of playing the game, and I'm still able to play at a high level," Bourque said. "If any of those things wouldn't have been the case, I wouldn't have come back."

But Bourque, who had seven goals and 52 assists in the regular season and has three goals and five assists in the playoffs, doesn't deny that playing for the Avalanche is a plus.

"This may be my last chance, and I think it is my best," said Bourque, who has not revealed plans for next season. "I'd love to carry the Cup around, and if it is my last game ...

His thoughts trailed off.

"I keep telling the guys that you don't know when you are going to be back here, so take advantage of the situation," he said. "I think what they've got to deal with is just a matter of them thinking they are going to be there every year, and it just doesn't happen."

But the veterans know, and that's why they are playing this series for themselves and for one of the all-time greats.

"He has meant so much to the game and has done so much in the past 22 years," Sakic said. "It definitely would be nice to see him win one."

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