Boston is hockey-mad and has been for years. So how did Ray Bourque's second-oldest son manage to avoid the Hub hockey bug until he was 11 years old and living in Denver?
"From 7 to 10 years old, I was into soccer, but when we moved to Colorado I was at the rink every day and that created a love for the game," said Ryan Bourque, who plans to move next season from the United States National Team Development Program to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Remparts are owned, managed and coached by father Ray Bourque's former Colorado Avalanche teammate, Patrick Roy.
His older brother, Chris, had a head start and now is with the Hershey Bears, with a good chance to be promoted next season to the Washington Capitals. Chris and Ryan found themselves skating with their father's Avalanche teammates in their Stanley Cup year, 2001, and playing hockey with their children. The Stanley Cup victory helped propel youth hockey in the Denver area to new heights.
"It's been a huge success in Colorado in the past 10 years," Bourque said. "Playing there was great. I played for the Littleton Hawks. My teammate there was my NTDP teammate this year, Drew Shore. That was a good experience. We traveled around the country, playing in tournaments like Silver Sticks."
The Bourques moved back to the Boston area after Ray retired following his Stanley Cup win, and Ray coached his sons in peewee and bantam. Both sons went to Cushing Academy, about an hour west of Boston, and Ray joined the coaching staff there as an assistant.
"I went to Cushing for my freshman and sophomore years. It was a great school and I really enjoyed it," Bourque said. "I learned a lot. My dad coached there for two years with Bill Troy. The head coach was Steve Jacobs. Then I got the opportunity to go with the national team for two years. That was another great experience, getting the international experience and what I learned on and off the ice."
He split last season between the Under-17 and Under-18 team, scoring 4 goals in 27 games with the U-18 squad. This season, he had 20 goals and 46 points in 48 games with the U-18 team. He was ranked No. 49 by Central Scouting in its final ranking of North American skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft.
"I've played in about six or seven tournaments, so that's probably about 30-35 international games," Bourque said. "I was fortunate midway through my 17-year-old season to get called up to the 18-year-old team so I played against guys like Victor Hedman and Nikita Filatov. That was a good experience, to be able to go against top talent like that. Filatov jumped right in and did well with Columbus and Syracuse (AHL) and that gives me hope. I'll go to juniors the next two years and then test the waters at the next level," Bourque said.
Bourque considered going to Boston University, where his brother Chris played one season, and then committed to the University of New Hampshire, but later chose to play with the Remparts, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2008 QMJHL draft.
"I committed to the University of New Hampshire as a sophomore. This past year, I decided to go to Quebec and I'm committed there," Bourque said. "Telling Coach (Dick) Umile at UNH was the hardest part. There was a relationship that I gained with him. I think the world of him as a person and a coach. He respected the decision and I thought it was best for my development. UNH is a great school with a great program."
Bourque thinks he'll benefit from playing almost twice as many games in the QMJHL, as well as the league's emphasis on offense.
A lot of sons who have tried to follow in their father's footsteps have struggled to meet the challenge. Dad may have been a five-time Norris Trophy winner and Hockey Hall of Fame father, but Ryan sees no challenge. For one thing, he's a forward. For another, there's a tight family bond where father and son respect each other's accomplishments.
"I feel very fortunate to have him as my father but I'm my own player. I'm Ryan Bourque," he said. "I am Ray's son but I'm trying to make my own name for myself. It is really good to have him there and get his advice. It's also great to see him every day, the way he goes about things so professionally at the rink and also being exposed to his character.
"I learned a lot from him, both on and off the ice. I feel really lucky to have him."
In Quebec City, Bourque will have the chance to bond with relatives he's mostly only been with on vacations. Plus, he can improve his limited ability to speak French.
"That's my goal this summer, learn French. My whole family speaks it so I'm the odd-man out," Bourque said. "My grandfather is in Montreal and my grandmother is in Moncton (NB). I'll be playing around them. There's a team in Montreal, Drummondville is pretty close and there's a team in Moncton. She'll be able to see a few games. I also have some cousins moving to Quebec next year so that will help."
Contact John McGourty at firstname.lastname@example.org.