This Ray Bourque oral history trade story first ran on March 19, 2018 at my old employer, BSN Denver (now DNVR). Even though I did all the work for it, it was/is still their intellectual property, so thank you to DNVR for letting me use it here.
In early March of 2000, it was no secret in the hockey world that legendary, future Hall-of-Fame defenseman Ray Bourque wanted, albeit reluctantly, to be traded from his team of 20-plus seasons, the Boston Bruins. In a Bruins career that spanned the end of the Carter Administration to the end of Bill Clinton’s, Bourque performed brilliantly for Boston in the succession of other Hall-of-Fame Bruins defensemen such as Bobby Orr and Brad Park.
A five-time Norris Trophy winner and 12-time first-team NHL all-star, the only thing missing from Bourque’s trophy case was hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup, and time was running out. At 39, Bourque knew he only had one or two good years left, and he knew it would be well beyond that before the Bruins had any chance of seriously competing for a Cup.
The Bruins started the 1999-2000 season at 0-5-4 and, despite a solid run after that had them above .500 for a while, by February things were falling apart again and Bourque wanted a chance to play meaningful, playoff hockey again. He also knew that the bounty he could bring the Bruins in trade could benefit their future, so it was during the NHL’s leaguewide general managers’ meetings on Feb. 27-28 in Palm Springs, Calif., that Bourque formally asked his longtime boss, Bruins general manager Harry Sinden, for a trade.
Bourque had two conditions for Sinden: He wanted to go to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and he wanted to stay relatively close to his home of Boxford, Mass., primarily because he had three teenage children and didn’t want to uproot their school lives. Bourque, and Sinden, thought he would be going to either one of two teams: the New Jersey Devils or the Philadelphia Flyers.
As we all know now, Bourque somehow, on March 6th, wound up 2,000 miles from Boxford, with the Colorado Avalanche. We all know how the story finished, as one of hockey’s most iconic moments, with Bourque lifting the Stanley Cup over his head after the final game of his career, Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals against one of the teams he thought he’d have played for instead, the Devils.
This is the story of how the trade happened, as told to BSN Denver by the principals themselves: Ray Bourque, Harry Sinden and former Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix.
Bourque: I knew Harry was at the GM meetings, and I’d called him and asked him if he could call me back. I left him a message. And he called me, and I remember exactly where I was when he called me. My son, Christopher, was interviewing to get into (Byfield, Mass., private school) Governor Dummer. We were in there with the people talking about him going to Governor Dummer, because my daughter was also going there. And then Harry called, and I said, ‘I gotta take this call’ and I stepped out. And that’s when I told him that I wanted to go somewhere to a team that could compete and have a good run in the playoffs. I told him why and what I was thinking, and he was good about it.
Bourque, at first, actually requested one team, in particular, to be traded: the Philadelphia Flyers, who would go on to win the Atlantic Division, a team loaded with offensive talent but missing a guy from the blueline like Bourque who might make a championship difference.