When Chris Bourque walked into the TD Garden on the first day of June to officially sign his contract with the Boston Bruins, he noticed more than a few familiar faces among the arena’s workforce.
“A few of the security guards are probably still upset at my brother (Ryan) and I for all those times we were kids and horsing around playing floor hockey in the hallways outside the locker room,” Bourque, who grew up in both Danvers and Boxford, chuckled.
For someone who grew up learning to skate at the old Boston Garden (where his famous father, long-time Bruins captain Raymond Bourque, played 21 years for the Bruins), the now 26-year-old Chris Bourque is ready to wear the familiar Black-and-Gold, eight-spoked ‘B’ and contribute to the team’s success himself.
“It’s really wild, signing with Boston. I’m thrilled,” said Bourque.
It’s been a whirlwind last two months for Bourque, who primarily plays left wing. He and his wife Kim had their first child, a son named Kingston Ray, seven-and-a-half weeks ago. Then he was traded from Washington to Boston during the Stanley Cup playoffs before signing a 2-year deal with Boston days later.
His contract is a two-way deal for this coming season, meaning he’ll make $550,000 if he sticks with the Bruins and $200,000 if he plays with the team’s American Hockey League franchise in Providence. For the 2013-14 campaign, he has a one-way only contract, meaning he’ll be paid $550,000 with the Bruins.
For someone who has played in just 33 NHL games between Washington and Pittsburgh, he’s eager not only for the chance to show he can play in the world’s best hockey league, but very happy that the Bruins went out of their way to bring him aboard.
“I was expecting to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and my agent and I had been discussing what my options were,” said Bourque, who led the AHL in scoring last year with the Hershey (Pa.) Bears, netting 27 goals and a league-high 66 assists for 93 points. “I figured any team that might want me would inquire on July 1, or I were ever to be traded, it’d be during the (NHL) Draft (taking place this weekend in Pittsburgh).
“I would definitely hope that (the Bruins saw something in me) and that’s why they traded for me. It was my first time being traded, but I guess that means they wanted me and wanted to lock me up before other teams could in free agency.”
A terrific skater and stickhandler, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Bourque has never fully been given the chance to showcase his offensive wares at the NHL level. The longest he’s been in the bigs at one time is two months with the Penguins; other than that it’s been a series of callups here, then being sent back down to the minors.
“It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times before,” admitted Bourque. “That’s why it’s good to have a change of scenery, to listen to some fresh voices and coaches so I can get to the next level that I believe I can play at.”
Slotted in as a depth forward, Bourque has seen the Bruins re-sign core third and fourth liners in recent weeks such as Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Chris Kelly. Those three are fan favorites who helped Boston win the Stanley Cup in 2011; Bourque would seemingly have to find a way to beat out one of those established veterans for a job with the big club.
“It’ll be a battle to crack that roster, no doubt about it. But going into (training) camp and battling is nothing new for me,” said Bourque. “I did it in Washington several times where they had a deep forward corps, and now I’ll be trying to do it here.
“I’ve never really cracked an opening night roster out of camp; that’s my goal for right now. I’m going to go into training camp (in mid-September) with an open mind and use it as my proving ground. I’d like to prove to myself that I can play in the NHL, but also prove to those who have and haven’t believed in me that I can, too.”