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Bourque gets the lay of the land at Fenway

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOSTON -- Ray Bourque and Dan Craig walked across the ice panels covering the field at Fenway Park under overcast skies Monday afternoon. Starting near first base and making it all the way across the diamond to third, Craig, the League's facilities operations manager, did most of the talking and Bourque, the Boston Bruins' Hall of Fame defenseman, was as attentive as a rookie listening to his veteran captain.

Bourque was at Fenway to announce the city's plans for public skating Jan. 3 and 10. He was representing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who was at home in Hyde Park nursing a knee injury.

Craig, the NHL's ice guru, gave Bourque a guided tour of the rink-build and the Hall of Famer was admittedly impressed.

"I didn't have to ask him very much," Bourque told NHL.com while standing right where center ice will be on New Year's Day for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. "He was telling me everything about it. It's kind of neat to see it before it's the final product, but I'm looking forward to seeing the final product. For me, that's when it's ready to be skated on and we can jump on and try it out."

For Bourque, that will be Friday at around 9:30 in the morning when he skates onto the ice with fellow Bruins' legends Cam Neely, Terry O'Reilly and Bobby Orr, various other alumni and 15 youth hockey players from Boston as part of the "First Skate at Fenway."

Bourque, who turns 49 later this month and has been retired since 2001, said he plans to bring his gloves and stick to Fenway that day.

"We're scheduled to skate with kids and some alumni and we'll get to have a little fun on it after all that is done with," Bourque said. "It'll be exciting and fun just to skate on it and look around. I took batting practice here once, but never thought I'd be skating on this field. We're going to have some fun."

Bourque honed his trade by skating on outdoor rinks as a kid growing up in the Notre Dame du Bois section of Saint-Laurent, a borough of Montreal. It wasn't until he was around 8-years-old that they finally built an indoor facility in his hometown.

He remembers walking to his outdoor rink with his skates on, only his skate guards protecting his blades from the ground. There were times when the lights would go off at the rink, but Bourque was undeterred so he kept playing, kept skating.

"So much of our hockey growing up back in the day wasn't so structured, it was just going out and meeting up with friends, working on your skills without even knowing that you're working on them," Bourque said. "Your parents had to pull you off the ice or turn out the lights and even then you'd stay on a little bit. I remember skating by myself late at night and thought I killed myself going after a puck on the side of the boards and stabbing myself in the middle of the stomach with my stick. I was out there thinking, 'This is how it's going to end for me.' I lost my wind."

"We're scheduled to skate with kids and some alumni and we'll get to have a little fun on it after all that is done with. It'll be exciting and fun just to skate on it and look around. I took batting practice here once, but never thought I'd be skating on this field. We're going to have some fun." -- Ray Bourque

Bourque said he's jealous that he won't be able to play for the Bruins on Jan. 1. However, when it was suggested to him that he sign a one-day contract, he laughed.

"I know as a player I came to watch the Red Sox a lot and I'd love to be able to play a hockey game here," he said. "It will be fun to watch."

Bourque is infatuated with the NHL's idea of bringing hockey back to its roots on New Year's Day.

"I think it's incredible the momentum that it has gathered," he said. "It's really been a home run for the NHL in terms of exposing the game to so many more fans. So many people jump into that game to watch on the first because there is no other game played in the regular season similar to that."

During his 21 seasons with the Bruins, Bourque never once envisioned skating and playing a hockey game at Fenway Park, but he has an idea of what conditions would be perfect for him.

"Overcast and mid-30s would be the perfect temperature," he said. "I'm not an expert, but as a player that's what I would be wishing for."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com