FOXBORO, Mass. — Ray Bourque’s first eight years in the NHL made it tough for him to go back home to Montreal in the summer.
The Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in 18 consecutive Stanley Cup playoff series from 1946 through 1987, making hockey’s best rivalry a very one-sided affair. That all changed in 1988 when the B’s defeated the Habs in a five-game Adams Division Final, capped with a series-clinching victory at the old Montreal Forum.
That made Bourque’s return home much more pleasant.
“It was a lot of fun for me, especially, being from Montreal,” Bourque said after Thursday’s Winter Classic Alumni Game win over the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium. “I used to go back for the summers back then. … And I got there in ’79, so we didn’t have that much success until ’87-88, so for me, it was such a nice summer, the summer of ’88.”
Bourque and many of his teammates from the 1980s and 1990s could feel the rivalry intensify once again as the Alumni Game wore on Thursday. Putting on the spoked-B sweater in an outdoor setting was really exciting for everyone involved, especially No. 77.
“I bleed black and gold,” Bourque said. “I left for a short time there, but I’ve been wearing this jersey for quite a while with the alumni. I’ve traveled all over the Maritimes playing with the alumni and with my ex-teammates. I live 25 minutes from the city, and I’m not going anywhere. For me, it’s always a thrill to wear this jersey.”
Thursday’s matchup was pretty competitive for an exhibition. The teams traded goals throughout regulation and were tied at 4 after 60 minutes. Bourque scored once in the third period, and his goal in the shootout proved to be the difference in a 5-4 victory for the home side.
The crowd certainly injected some energy and excitement into the game as well. More than 41,000 fans were in attendance, the large majority of whom were rooting for the hometown Bruins.
“The atmosphere was great. It just says so much about this town,” Bourque said. “I shouldn’t be surprised, but I thought it was a really fun game to be a part of and to play in and to watch to have it go down to a shootout. I think that was pretty neat. You could see at the end there, both teams did not want to lose.”