Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ray Bourque Jersey Card

I hadn't purchased mid- or high-range hockey card products this year for a few reasons, one of them being a lack of funds and the other a semi-boycott of Upper Deck's monopoly tactics, and before I took a plunge - which I might succumb to this summer - I decided to try looking for individual cards on Ebay, which is where I found this 2014-15 Trilogy card (#T-RB1 of the Tryptichs sub-set, numbered 247/400) of Raymond Bourque sporting the Boston Bruins' superb classic 1980s black (away) uniform:
I got it for just over a dollar (plus shipping, with another card that was just a dollar), and it features a white game-worn jersey swatch.

Bourque is usually considered among the top-5 best defensemen of all time, and depending who you ask, the rest of the list might include fellow Bruin Bobby Orr, Doug Harvey, Denis Potvin, Nicklas Lidstrom, and maybe Chris Chelios, with Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe not far behind in the mix for spots 4 and 5 for certain folks. (I think mine ranks Harvey, Orr, Lidstrom, and Bourque in the top four spots, and it's a toss-up between Potvin, Robinson and Chelios for fifth).

Bourque (along with Cam Neely and tremendous goaltending from he likes of Andy Moog, Réjean Lemelin and Bill Ranford) was the centerpiece of a dominating Bruins team in the 1980s, one that went to the Stanley Cups Finals twice (both times losing to the Edmonton Oilers) in three seasons, in a decade where the New York Islanders had their dynasty and the Montréal Canadiens were still pretty great thanks to Patrick Roy (Stanley Cup in in 1986, Cup Finals in 1989, and another Cup win would follow in 1993); factor in both Philadelphia Flyers Finals losses that decade and you have yourself a four-team Prince of Wales (as was then known the Eastern Conference) cartel.

The 1990s weren't as glorious, though, and at one point the Bs had to ponder offering the team's longest-ever serving captain a chance at winning the Cup with another team, or risk retiring with a rebuilding team (centered around a young Joe Thornton). They did in 2000, sending him to the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he would win the following year, bring the Cup back to Boston for a final farewell, and retire happy as a champion.

Joe Sakic handing Bourque the Cup was one of the most touching hockey moments of the 00s, and he probably truly was the team's main source of inspiration in that particular run, but I still don't really understand why the Avs went and retired his jersey after 14 months on the team. The Bruins, yes, for sure, but the Avs may have cheapened the meaning of such an action in this particular case by honoring a player who is clearly most remembered as part of another organization, which is totally acceptable considering he spent 21 years playing in Beantown. I write this fully realizing he was a Norris Trophy runner-up in his final season, winning it five times between 1986-87 and 1993-94.

There's no denying he was one of the best of all-time, retiring as the defenseman leader in goals, assists and points, a first-ballot Hall Of Famer with two Canada Cups with Team Canada and a runner-up nod as well.

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