September 19, 2012

From NEHJ: Make room for daddy

By Jesse Connolly

When you’re talking to the son of a Hockey Hall of Famer, you can only dance around the inevitable line of “dad” questions for so long. 

Chris Bourque — who was acquired from the Capitals in May — is eager to finally pull on his own Bruins sweater. (Getty Images) 

When said son has been traded to the team where his famous father starred for more than 20 years, during which he made 19 consecutive All-Star Games, won the Norris Trophy five times and racked up 1,506 points to grab hold of the all-time franchise scoring lead — which, let’s face it, will never be topped — one would assume the story practically writes itself.

Chris Bourque is going to be asked about his father, Ray, often during the first hours, days and weeks of his first season with the Bruins. Factor in the occasional inquiry from visiting media members throughout the year, and it’s likely the Boxford, Mass., native will never go too long without encountering someone hoping for him to wax poetic about his legendary dad.

As far as Chris is concerned, that’s something that’ll never get tiresome.

“No, no, never,” Bourque said. “I love talking about my dad and what he’s meant to the organization. He’s definitely one of the first guys you think of that are true Bruins. To be honest, I love talking about it. I always like answering questions like that.”

Acquired in a trade with the Washington Capitals in late May that saw the Bruins part with former eighth overall pick Zach Hamill, Bourque is coming off his best pro season to date. The 26-year-old forward won the scoring title with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, finishing the season with 93 points in 73 games.

Throughout it all, he kept plugging along, hoping he’d get called up to Washington and get another crack at playing in the NHL. The opportunity never came.

“It was just maybe something where I wasn’t in their plans or maybe they needed me to help out the younger guys in Hershey,” Bourque said. “I was striving for bigger and better things. I just wanted to be somewhere where someone wants to give me a shot to play in the NHL. I think I can and that’s where I want to play. I never got much of an opportunity in Washington. Maybe I should blame myself for that, but I thought I put up good enough numbers in the minors where I’d put myself in position to get called up.”

The 2011-12 season marked Bourque’s return to North America after a one-year stint in Switzerland.

“It was definitely huge for me, just to get away from not necessarily the AHL and NHL, but just go over and not worry about getting called up or sent down,” said Bourque, who has appeared in 33 NHL games for the Penguins and Capitals since turning pro in 2005. “I played in a beautiful town in Lugano, where I woke up and had a beautiful view of the mountains and a great lake. Mentally, it was really refreshing, just to get away, regroup and think about what my next goals were.”

After getting engaged in Lugano, Chris married his longtime girlfriend, Kim, last summer. In May, the two welcomed a son into the world: Kingston Ray Bourque.

“It’s been awesome,” he said of life as a dad. “It’s obviously a big change; your whole life definitely changes. I got married last summer and then having a kid this summer was another step toward forming that family I’ve always wanted. It’s been an awesome year and a half here getting married and having our first son. We’re having a blast.”

A three-time Calder Cup champion with Hershey, Bourque is elated that everything in his life off the ice has fallen into place. Now, he’s aiming to make sure his career follows suit in Boston.

“I’m not too worried about the other guys; it’s just playing my game and doing the best I can to try to get one of those spots,” Bourque said of battling for a spot in the Bruins’ lineup, which likely will see him competing with Jordan Caron and Jared Knight for an NHL job. “I haven’t seen much of those guys play, but the things I’ve read and heard are that they’re all good players.

“Everyone wants to play in the NHL. That’s my goal, and I’m sure that’s their goal, too. I’m more worried about getting myself in the best shape right now this summer and getting my head right to go into camp and win one of those spots.”

For someone who said the Bruins always have felt like family to him, the opportunity to don Boston’s black and gold is almost too crazy to fathom.

“I’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve put on the jersey before, but it was either my dad’s jersey or Cam Neely’s jersey when I was younger,” said Bourque, who signed a two-year deal shortly after joining the Bruins. “It’s definitely going to be a surreal moment, even on that first day of training camp, pulling over that practice jersey with the Bruins’ logo on the front. I grew up skating in the Garden and always wanted to be a Bruin and play in the NHL.”

As for being Ray’s son and playing for the Bruins, Bourque said he’s fully prepared for there to be a little extra pressure when things get under way.

“It’ll definitely be there at training camp, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. It’s going to be new, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to.”

Bourque said he’s yet to be asked about which jersey number he wants to wear. His number in Hershey, 17, belongs to Milan Lucic. His father’s No. 77, of course, is in the Garden rafters. But he’s not worried about such minor details.

“I have a couple preferences, but a few of them are already taken,” he said. “I’ll take anything they’ll give me. It’s not about the number on the back. Hopefully, I’ll be wearing that Spoked-B.”

Hennessy heads to KHL

After a dream-come-true stint with his hometown Bruins, Josh Hennessy is heading back overseas. The Rockland, Mass., native inked a one-year deal with HC Vityaz of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He expects to earn about $700,000.

Hennessy, 27, played in three games for the Bruins in 2011-12. He had 41 points in 69 games for Providence (AHL) after playing for Lugano in Switzerland in 2010-11.

Butler catches on with Devils

After a disappointing second NHL season, Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.) was waived and bought out by the Ottawa Senators. He quickly rebounded, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the New Jersey Devils.

“We’ll just see what develops, but he has the potential of being a top-six forward,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.) said.

Butler had 21 points in 36 games as a rookie, but the former UNH star followed that up with just 16 points in 56 games last season.

New pact for Pacioretty

Originally set to become a restricted free agent next summer, those looking forward to Max Pacioretty hitting the market are now going to have to wait a whole lot longer. The New Canaan, Conn., native — who capped off a 33-goal season by winning the Masterton Trophy — signed a six-year extension with the Canadiens through the 2018-19 season, during which he’ll earn $4.5 million annually.

“To be able to call Montreal home for seven years is such an honor,” Pacioretty told the Montreal Gazette. “I want to do whatever I can to help this team win and this will help me focus on that for years to come.”

DiPietro deemed healthy

In early August, the Islanders officially announced that embattled goaltender Rick DiPietro (Winthrop, Mass.) had been removed from their injured reserve list. The move appears to be financially motivated. If a lockout occurs and DiPietro remained on IR, the Islanders still would have had to pay him.

Quick has minor surgery

Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champ Jonathan Quick underwent what’s been described as a “minor surgical procedure” in August to repair a disc fragment and an inflammatory cyst. The Kings said the Hamden, Conn., native will fully recover in a minimum of six weeks, which would put Quick on track to return to action in late September. Los Angeles’ season opener is scheduled for Oct. 12 at Staples Center against the Rangers.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ