TORONTO -- Ray Bourque first saw the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup Final loss to the St. Louis Blues last season as a scar that might never heal. But the Hall of Fame defenseman now sees the result of the seven-game series in a different light, one he says he believes illustrated a leadership through the Bruins organization that brought them to within one win of a championship.
"I wondered how long it takes you to get over something like that," Bourque said Monday at the NHL Alumni Association annual gala, where he was honored as their Keith Magnuson Man of the Year. "But you have to look at the whole body of work. The Bruins getting to a seventh game of the Final - if you'd thrown that on the table at the beginning of the year, I don't know how many would have bought into it.
"I thought they'd be a playoff team, that they'd contend. I still can't believe they didn't bring that seventh game home. I was there for Games 5 and 7 and losing those two at home would have hurt me so bad. But I think we saw a lot of leadership on the part of the players, coaches and management. Last year things fell right for them, they had the opportunity. Now it's up to everyone to make sure they don't have a hangover and dwell on the loss in the Final."
The Bruins are showing no ill effects this season. They are 5-1-2 entering their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, NESN, TSN4, NHL.TV).
Bourque was honored by the Alumni Association for his charity work, a cornerstone of the Magnuson Award. Long involved with the Bruins alumni, he established his own foundation three years ago and aggressively raises funds for a variety of charities through various events.
Video: Ray Bourque capped career with dramatic Cup in 2001
The 58-year-old said he was deeply moved to have been honored by the NHLAA and its executive director, Glenn Healy, energized by his ongoing work in and around Boston.
The gala was attended by several hundred, including about 140 former players, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. It featured three stirring pieces by filmmaker Tim Thompson, including a tribute to the players who had died in the past year.
One of the greatest offensive defensemen of all time, Bourque combined strong skating with superb intuition and an ability to control the flow of a game through 22 NHL seasons from 1979-2001. He played 1,518 of his 1,612 games for Boston, finishing his career with the Colorado Avalanche. It was with Colorado in 2001 that Bourque at long last hoisted the Stanley Cup, retiring a month after the championship had been won.
Bourque stands third in NHL history for percentage of career goals scored on the power play, his 42.2 percent (173 of 410) behind only fellow defenseman Al MacInnis (48.8 percent; 166 of 340) and forward Dave Andreychuk (42.8 percent, 274 of 640).
With 1,579 career points (410 goals, 1,169 assists), Bourque considered what might have been had today's NHL rules applied during his playing days.
"Offensively, it would be a lot more fun today," he said. "I don't know how many times I'd beat two guys and be ready to jump in when a guy would hook the (heck) out of you and stop you in your tracks. You'd want to turn around and slash him so hard for that.
"Then again," he said with a grin, "defensively today you have to be able to skate because you can't reach in and grab hold. With no red line, no clutching, grabbing and hooking, it would be a lot of fun with the puck today."
Following its mission statement of "Honor the Past," the Alumni Association paid tribute to four others on Monday while celebrating Hall of Famers and lesser lights who had come from near and far:
Video: Remembering the legacy of past NHL alumni
• The Keith McCreary 7th Man Award went to St. Louis Blues superfan Laila Anderson. The award, presented to a positive ambassador in the hockey community, went to the inspirational 11-year-old who played a valuable role in her favorite team's 2019 Stanley Cup championship. The Blues organization and fellow fans rallied around Anderson last season as she battled hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; she was such a large part of St. Louis' championship that the Blues gave her a Stanley Cup ring. On Monday, St. Louis surprised her again, this time with a miniature version of the Cup.
Video: Laila receives signed Stanley Cup replica from Blues
• The Ace Bailey Award of Courage was presented to former NHL defenseman Chris Joseph, who played 510 games from 1987-2001. Joseph's son, Jaxon, was among the Humboldt Broncos players killed in a bus crash on April 6, 2018. From his own loss, Joseph is making a difference, crusading for measures to improve road safety.
• The Outstanding Alumni Award was presented this year for the first time. Cliff Koroll was honored for his efforts on behalf the of alumni of the Chicago Blackhawks, who he played all of his 814 NHL games for from 1969-80. Koroll's work has become a template for other NHL teams.
• Finally, there was the NHL Alumni Honorary Member, presented to an individual or group who has distinguished themselves as a prominent figure in their field without having played a single NHL game. Celebrated this year was Canadian Army Captain Charles Scot-Brown, 96, a highly decorated World War II veteran. A Canadian hero from D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, he was delighted to compare his rank of captain with that of Montreal Canadiens legend Yvan Cournoyer. Scot-Brown held the audience spellbound with tales of his military service and his friendship with late Toronto Maple Leafs goalie legend Johnny Bower, overseas and at home.
Photos courtesy: Jeremy Sale/NHL Alumni Association