Nearly 100 pieces of Ray Bourque memorabilia have hit the digital auction block (see: www.classicauctions.net), now that Ray and wife Christiane are empty-nesters who in recent months downsized to a townhouse after some 40 years of bigger homes on the North Shore.
“Still up here,” a wistful Bourque said by phone late this past week. “We’ve lived in the same 6-mile triangle since we bought John Wensink’s house in Danvers in 1980. Not going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, precisely 97 artifacts related to Bourque’s Hall of Fame career have been put under the auctioneer’s gavel, simply because there’s no space at his new quarters. Most of the pieces, he said, were kept in boxes from prior moves, and rather than keep them stored in perpetuity, he opted for the auction block, with a portion of the proceeds to be used to help fund the Bourque Family Foundation, the focal point of his charitable efforts the last three years.
“Truth is, I didn’t even know what I had, or how much I had,” said Bourque, “until I started digging. Then it was just like, I mean, ‘Wow, what am I going to do with all this stuff?’ ”
As for his 2001 Stanley Cup ring with Colorado, which came his way when the Avalanche clinched in his 1,826th and last NHL game, that is definitely not up for bids.
“Oh, yeah, that stays,” Bourque, the ex-Bruins captain, said as he broke into light laughter. “I waited long enough for that.”
His five Norris Trophies also will remain in hand, eventually taking their place in a display case or bookshelves yet to be constructed, the Bourques still unpacking boxes after moving into their new place late this summer. Bourque also is holding onto a replica of the Stanley Cup, engraved with the names of his Avalanche teammates, because it has sentimental value beyond memories of the championship. “Christiane promised our son, Ryan, we’d get a dog if we won the Cup,” recalled Bourque, with Ryan age 10 at the time. “So we win, and they show up with a Shih Tzu, a puppy we named Stanley. Great dog. But he eventually passed . . . and that’s why we can’t give up the Cup.”
Stanley was cremated and what better place than a replica Stanley Cup to store the ashes of a man’s best friend?
The online auction, with a total 1,104 lots described in the 150-page catalog, will end Nov. 5, according to Class Auctions owner Marc Juteau. Bourque first met Juteau in the spring when the Bruins legend was in Quebec City, joined there by fellow Quebecois greats Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Canada’s top pee-wee tournament. Bourque said he initially had no intention then of selling off his stuff, but then a quick decision to move over the summer crystalized the auction idea.
“So there’s some cool stuff in there,” said Bourque. “Rings, trophies, signed jerseys and sticks.”
The stick Bourque used to score his 1,000th NHL point (one of 1,579 total) is up for grabs, along with his gold rings from the Canada Cup in 1981, ’84 and ’87, and rings from his multiple All-Star Game appearances. Of more recent vintage, there is the NHL-issued blazer he wore to All-Star festivities in 2017 in Los Angeles when he was named one of the top 100 players in NHL history. And a boatload of sticks, many of them signed, from such stars as Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Denis Potvin, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, Daniel Alfredsson, and Mats Sundin. Oh, and in lot No. 82, one of Patrick Roy’s paddles.
“Just time for it to go . . . it will help the foundation, and maybe it will catch some eyes and make some fans happy out there,” said Bourque. “I hope so, anyway.”
Ray and Christiane are empty-nesters. Ryan, a 2009 Rangers draft pick, is starting his third season with AHL Bridgeport, the Islanders’ top affiliate. Chris, the former Boston University forward and Capitals draft pick, is in Germany, playing his first season there with the Red Bull squad in Munich. Ray and Christiane will head over there to see him play in late November, soon after daughter Melissa gives birth to her second child.
Bourque, whose main business interest is Tresca, his North End restaurant, also keeps busy as a spokesman for Berkshire Bank and suits up for some 30 games a year for the Bruins alumni squad.
“Still on defense,” said Bourque, 58, asked if he vacated his old position to try his hand at forward. “Too old to set any scoring records now.”
Bourque departed Friday for Victoria, British Columbia, with some of the Oldie Black and Goldies, to join the likes of ex-Bruins Geoff Courtnall, Larry Melnyk, and Moe Lemay in a couple of charity games at the edge of the Pacific.
Upon retiring just weeks after winning the Cup in Denver, Bourque devoted himself mainly to helping to raise the three kids — often coaching Ryan and Chris in their years leading to the draft — and enjoying all of life’s little things that an NHLer too often can’t do when locked into a season that sometimes runs nine months.
Absorbed by all that, and his love for playing golf, Bourque never gave serious consideration to pursuing an NHL coaching or management position. “I was having fun doing all that other stuff, things I’d really missed all those years playing,” he said. “And all of a sudden I’d been doing that for 10 years. So by then, to be realistic, my time had passed.”
Maybe so. Although it’s hard to believe someone with Bourque’s otherworldly skills and knowledge couldn’t be a valuable asset, on or off the ice, for an NHL team. True, he skated his last shift more than 18 years ago, and the game has changed dramatically since 2001, but he was the gold standard at his position for much of his 22 years in the league.
“That’s OK, I am still watching,” said Bourque, who often can be seen schmoozing with Bruins fans at his Hanover Street eatery prior to games at the Garden. “I keep in touch with a couple of players, and I love the coach [Bruce Cassidy]. I especially love how honest he is with guys, yeah critical, but he does it the right way, without throwing anyone under the bus. I still watch. I still support. I like what I see.”
FROM A DISTANCE
Cassidy eyes more blue line offense
High up on Bruce Cassidy’s 2019-20 wish list is a desire to wring out more offense, particularly five-on-five, and possibly engaging the backline employees (read: more long-range shots by defensemen) to bump up the numbers. The shorthand for this is a “low-to-high” approach in the attacking zone, with forwards dishing back toward the blue line.
Not a novel idea, though it is somewhat counterintuitive to move the puck farther away from the net in hopes that it betters the chance it will end up in its 24-square-foot target. Shooting lanes from 40, 50, and 60 feet in today’s NHL close up faster than beachside margarita bars as the sun sets on Labor Day.
Brandon Carlo, who entered the weekend with a meager career scoring line of 8-24—32 in 231 games, is among the Bruins defensemen possibly to get more involved in the production game. Now beginning his fourth season, he has carved himself a reputation as a solid defender, with his offensive skills, whatever they may be, never put to a test. In his second-pairing role, Carlo defers to the more-agile, hard-shooting Torey Krug to bankroll points while he concentrates more on the basics of defense.
It’s not a foreign mind-set for Carlo. In his three years of junior hockey out west (Tri-City Americans), he stuck to that role, and it eventually led him to full-time work in the NHL straight out of junior. “I did score a few more goals in junior,” he said. “I think when I was 15 or 16 [Triple A age] was primarily when I was more on offense. But throughout junior, I wasn’t used in situations where I felt I could have continued to grow my offensive game — power play or whatnot — that didn’t happen much for me. I continued to develop my defensive game, and I feel that’s the staple that got me to the NHL, so I am completely OK with that.”
If Carlo has more to offer, one key to bring it out, Cassidy believes, is for the 22-year-old to be more forgiving of his own mistakes. Cassidy sees the more offensive-inclined Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, who assisted on Danton Heinen’s power-play goal on opening night, as being more adept at shaking off boo-boos, a trait he believes they learned in their BU days.
“At times, for sure,” said Carlo, asked if Cassidy has encouraged him to move quickly past in-game miscues. “I think it’s primarily in those situations where I say I make a mistake, he will come to me and say it doesn’t matter, move on. I recognize that better now. I think the playoffs were a huge help with that, knowing that there’s 82 games in a regular season to make a whole bunch of mistakes. Then come playoff time, you don’t want to make mistakes. I don’t want to say it diminishes the importance of making mistakes, but at the same time, with 82 games, it’s not life or death.”
Difficult summer for Khudobin
Born and raised in Kazakhstan, ex-Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin spends his summers tucked away in his home in the Siberian forest. “Doby” loves it there, staying in shape typically with hikes in the woods around Krasnoyarsk, Siberia’s third-largest city.
But this summer was different. Massive fires in Siberia, which at one point had President Trump offering American aid to tamp down the flames, limited Khudobin’s time on the trails.
“Everything was OK but the fire, it was right in my area,” said Khudobin, back again this season with Dallas as Ben Bishop’s backup. “My father went back to Kazakhstan to stay with his mother for the summer. He stayed there. When the fire started, we couldn’t open the windows for three weeks.”
The burn area, said Khudobin, was some 1,200 square miles, with his home nearly in the center, albeit with the direct burn area never threatening the structure. According to Khudobin, inordinately hot weather in the mid-90s, combined with careless campers who didn’t properly tend to their campfires, proved to be the culprit.
“When it starts burning, then it’s just tree by tree, tree by tree,” said a frustrated, animated Khudobin. “Trump said, ‘We can help you guys, whatever you want.’ But the firefighters, they can’t get there by car or truck — there’s no roads or trails. It’s planes or helicopters, that’s it.”
At the height of the conflagration, said Khudobin, planes loaded with water began departing a nearby airport every day at 6 a.m. and stayed on the job until nightfall, shuttling back and forth on their soaking runs.
The smoke-filled air did not entirely stop Khudobin from hitting the trails, but it did limit his time.
“I mean, you could fight through it,” he said. “But when you are breathing it for two or three hours — same stuff, same stuff — you kind of get tired of it, right? But luckily we got through it.”
Meanwhile, Khudobin now is in the second year of the two-year pact he signed in Big D when the Bruins opted to let him go to free agency and instead signed Jaroslav Halak in July 2018. Stars coach Jim Montgomery said Thursday that he plans to go with Khudobin about the same as last season, when he went 16-17-5 in 41 appearances with a .923 save percentage.
The Bruins closed out their preseason schedule last Saturday with a thumping of the Blackhawks that included hat tricks by Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak. The last two Bruins each to pot three in the same game: Andy Hebenton and Dean Prentice, in an 11-0 pasting of Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens, Jan. 18, 1964. The bet here would have been Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. Bruce Cassidy’s guess was Rick Middleton and Barry Pederson. When told after Saturday’s game that it was Hebenton and Prentice, a genuinely surprised Cassidy chirped, “Who?!” Cassidy only recalled Prentice in his days with the North Stars and had not heard of Hebenton, who wrapped up his NHL days with the Bruins in that spring of ’64 before enjoying a long run in the Western Hockey League. Prentice, who spent only two full seasons in Boston, enjoyed a much longer NHL stay, totaling 1,378 games and 860 points . . . Zdeno Chara Saturday night played in career NHL game No. 1,487, tying Big Z with Wayne Gretzky at No. 23 on the all-time list. Provided he doesn’t sit out these next three months, Chara will play his 1,000th regular-season game in a Bruins uniform when the Jets visit the Garden on Jan. 9 . . . The highest reserve price of all the items in the Classic Auctions: $25,000 for one of Gretzky’s No. 99 game-worn sweaters with the Oilers in 1986-87 . . . Perhaps the biggest surprise in the auction: the Cup ring Jacques Laperriere won as an assistant coach with the Canadiens in 1986. “Lappy,” who later assisted Pat Burns behind the Boston bench, won the Cup six times as a member of the Habs’ backline . . . Similar to Joe Thornton’s start in Boston, it took Tyler Seguin some time to become proficient at the faceoff dot. On Thursday night, Seguin won 8 of 15 drops, best among the busiest Stars draw men, and better than Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (8 of 20). “I’d say it’s half physical and half mental,” said Seguin. “Just kind of learning it, studying it — you think you know faceoffs until you get to the NHL. Lots of it is tactics, and what other centers do. Like going against Bergy, there’s nothing fancy to him, he’s just strong, heavy. And [David] Krejci’s great with his skates. Just little things, when you know when you’re going against them, you are prepared.” Seguin won 676 drops last season, ranking him 18th in the league, only five spots behind Bergeron (786) . . . Brad Marchand minded his business last season, as he promised after his lick-filled playoffs of 2018, and his improved comportment helped him log a career-high 64 assists and 100 points. “My mind-set now is completely away from trying to stir things up,” said the Li’l Ball o’ Hate. “When you’re in a position of playing with the guys I play with, we just have a lot of fun out there. And there’s not that many guys [across the league] that instigate that stuff now, either — the refs are tight on [yapping] and the league’s tight. It’s really getting completely pushed out of the game and it’s just about playing hockey now and it’s just about skill.” Nonetheless, he misses some of the yapping. “It’s easy to get roped into it,” he said. “It’s fun to do, you know, it’s part of hockey and the way we grew up playing — but that’s not hockey anymore.”