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Trottier, Bourque thankful to ride in Macy's parade

Hockey Hall of Famers appear on float promoting NHL Showdown between Penguins, Bruins

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

Bryan Trottier laughed when he considered the possibility that he might be booed in Manhattan on Thursday. When you were a member of the New York Islanders' dynasty in the 1980s and you're going to be riding on a float through a part of town that's rich with New York Rangers fans, anything's possible.

But Trottier took a more positive view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, when he shared the Frozen Fall Fun by Discover/NHL float with Boston Bruins legend and fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. The two rode together to promote the Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins, another former team of Trottier, and the Bruins at TD Garden in Boston on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, NHL.TV). 

The 36-by-20 float featured a synthetic ice rink with kids skating, a 12-foot tall turkey that served as a hockey goal, plus an assortment of colorful fall decor. Grammy Award-winning musician Wyclef Jean will be the featured performer on the float.

"I'm hoping for cheers for myself and for Ray," Trottier said with a chuckle this week.

Trottier and Bourque were excited about taking part in the hugely popular parade, which since its debut in 1924 has been the unofficial start to the holiday season. This year's NHL float was part of a massive event that's included 26 floats, 17 giant character balloons, 28 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons, 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers, 1,000-plus clowns, a dozen marching bands and six performance groups.

"Ray is one of those special people, it will be fun to share a float with him," Trottier said of Bourque. "Our families are such big fans of parades in general, but I think it will be fun to be a part of this one because of its history and hoopla and glamor and that it previews Christmas. There's a joy about it that celebrates the holiday season."

Trottier has ridden in seven Stanley Cup parades -- as player from 1980-83 with the Islanders and in 1991 and 1992 with Penguins, and an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. Every one is special, he says, because they offer a chance to show appreciation to the fans.

"You're the one being waved at, and you have the opportunity to wave back in thanks," he said.

Video: Bryan Trottier was mainstay on six Cup-winning teams

The parade, Trottier said, was a wonderful chance to spend some time with Bourque, an old rival with whom he shared a championship in 2001 with the Avalanche. 

"The NHL is giving a couple of old ding-dongs the chance to thank fans for their support of the League," he said. "Our float will precede a really fun game between two archrivals who share the colors of black and gold. Ray and I were former adversaries, but we shared a Stanley Cup and our friendship bond is pretty special. This will be all about representing the NHL as ambassadors. We share a history and we have an opportunity to thank the NHL and be the League's representatives in a real positive way."

Bourque vaguely recalls riding in a forever-ago parade in a little town somewhere, in a convertible, and cutting classes twice in the 1970s to attend two Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup parades.

"The teachers didn't know -- well, I guess they did when they took attendance and there were a couple of us missing," he said. "A couple of my buddies were big fans, we played hockey, so we came downtown to see the parade on Ste. Catherine Street. We weren't far from the Montreal Forum, having arrived by bus and the Metro (subway)."

It wasn't until 2000-01, the last of his 22 NHL seasons, that Bourque rode in a Cup parade of his own alongside Avalanche captain Joe Sakic on a fire engine, the celebration beginning with the convoy's modest exit from Denver's Pepsi Center.

"Joe had won the Cup in 1996 (with Colorado) and I remember asking him, 'Where are all the people?' " said Bourque, who had played the first 20 years of his career in Boston. "Joe told me, 'Wait…' 

"And then we turned onto a street -- I don't remember which one -- and it was just jammed with people, on the street, on rooftops, hanging out of windows. It was an incredible experience. I remember thinking, 'Imagine this in Boston.'"

Ten years later, the Bruins went all the way, with Bourque attending Boston's three home games in the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. He was on vacation, in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when the Bruins won Game 7 in Vancouver to capture their first title since 1972. He wasn't back in Boston in time to take part in the Bruins' downtown celebration.

The Macy's parade was a much grander event than the first parades Trottier remembers from his youth in tiny Val Marie, Saskatchewan, "a metropolis of 200 people" that's 75 miles south of Swift Current and 20 miles north of the Montana border.

"They were July 1 Dominion Day (now Canada Day) parades, celebrating our annual September rodeo," Trottier said. "They were a big to-do. We had floats, tractors, semis, bikes all dolled up… everybody got involved, the people and the businesses, it was really a community-minded thing. 

"It was a big celebration, recognizing the spirit of people. We'd have farmers, ranchers, horseback riders, kids pulling along cows and pigs, the 4H got involved, kids in cowboy hats and boots, girls all glitzed up, the rodeo queens. What great memories."

Video: Ray Bourque capped career with dramatic Cup in 2001

A long way from Val Marie, Trottier expected to make many more memories Thursday in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, even if he jokes about another form of transport that will get him to the NHL float for the start of the Macy's parade.

"With this old body," he said, laughing again, "I've asked them for a golf cart."

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