Ray Bourque played 21 seasons and 1,612 games in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup and five Norris Trophies, and he still leads all defensemen in goals, assists and points. He played in the old Boston Garden, the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, Chicago Stadium and Joe Louis Arena.
But throughout his storied career, there is one old barn in which he never skated.
On Friday, Bourque — along with the greatest defenseman of all, Bobby Orr, plus other Bruins legends — will take a spin on the Fenway Park ice and participate in the "First Skate at Fenway."
Joining Bourque and Orr will be: Cam Neely, Terry O’Reilly, Lyndon Byers, Cleon
Daskalakis, Gary Doak, Ken Hodge, Ken Linseman, John McKenzie, Rick Middleton, Jay Miller, Brad Park, Milt Schmidt, assistant general manager Don Sweeney and Boston Bruins Foundation director of development Bob Sweeney.
Bourque addressed the media on Monday at Fenway and then took a tour of the construction site. He seemed a bit jealous that he wouldn’t be playing for his old team on New Year’s Day, but he’s still excited to take part in Friday’s festivities.
“This is unbelievable,” Bourque said, looking around at the work of NHL facilities manager Dan Craig and his crew. “The experience that the guys and the kids and families are going to have skating outdoors here at Fenway under this environment — I am so jealous. I'll get out there on Friday, but to play in that game on [Jan. 1], man, that would have been so much fun.”
During his NHL career, Bourque could never really fathom an event like the Winter Classic, but he credited the NHL for making this an annual event after the first game in Edmonton in 2003.
“No, I never even went there — you didn't even think about an outdoor game,” Bourque said. “So just the foresight, the thinking, how things have progressed, trying to expose the game … you know, they're always looking for new ways to do that. I think this is a great way to do it.
"I think it's incredible, the momentum that it's gathered through the years," he continued. "I remember the first one that took place in Edmonton between the Oilers and the Canadiens, how cold it was just watching that game from home. No, it's really been a home run, I think, for the NHL in terms of exposing the game to so many more fans. Last year [they had the game at] Wrigley Field, then they had the game in Buffalo at the stadium where they had to stop the game so often just to get the snow off the ice. That probably was a pain in the butt, but it was just different to watch. What it's created, what it's done for the NHL and hockey in general — like I said, it's been a home run over the Green Monster.”
For Bourque, the majestic setting of the Winter Classic brings him back to his childhood in St. Laurent, a borough of Montreal.
“That's where it all started for me,” Bourque said. “I skated outdoors before I skated indoors, in terms of even playing games or playing for a team. So I go way back. But there was nothing like it. I'd skate to the park with my skates and little things protecting my blades. I'd just walk to the park, get on the ice, get home, meet up with my buddies after school. This brings you back to that for sure. You feel those elements and think of that. It’s great.”