Avalanche Throwback Thursday: Sakic Hands Cup to Ray Bourque

Almost to the day 14 years ago the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup for the second time. On June 9, 2001, the Colorado Avalanche beat the reigning champion New Jersey Devils at the Pepsi Center in a thrilling Game 7.

There are so many exciting stories from that series and from that game, including now-veteran winger Alex Tanguay’s game-winning goal. However, one of the most iconic moments in sports history happened at the end of the game.

Avalanche captain Joe Sakic handed the Stanley Cup to defenseman Ray Bourque for the victory lap.

Bourque’s Journey to the Stanley Cup

Defenseman Ray Bourque will always be a Boston Bruins great, no matter finishing his career with the Colorado Avalanche. Bourque was drafted eighth overall in 1979 by the Bruins and played 21 storied years with the Boston franchise.

In 1985, Ray Bourque became co-captain of the Boston Bruins with Rick Middleton. Bourque became sole captain of the club in 1988, remaining so until 2000. He is the longest tenured Bruins captain to date.

In those 21 years, though Bourque earned many hockey honors, the greatest one eluded him and the team. The Boston Bruins were not contenders for the Stanley Cup. They came close a few times, but by the end of the 1999-2000 season, the writing was on the wall.  The Bruins were in a rebuild, and time was running out for Bourque.

On March 6, 2000, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche. At the time, the Avalanche were one of the strongest Cup contenders in the NHL.

And, as we know, they made their second Stanley Cup run during the 2000-01 season with Ray Bourque on the blueline.

Traditions Defied

Hockey, especially in the playoffs, is a very traditional sport. Superstitious, too. In fact, that’s why hockey players grow their playoff beards — they’re superstitious about changing anything, so they don’t shave.

Weirdly, the 2001 Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup champions were smooth-cheeked. Ray Bourque sported a goatee, but other key players such as captain Joe Sakic, star Peter Forsberg and clutch goalie Patrick Roy (heralded as one of the most superstitious hockey players ever) are clean-shaven. (NBC exec Mark Lazarus would be so proud — for what that’s worth.)

Another grand tradition is the first skate with the Stanley Cup. The commissioner — Gary Bettman since the beginning of time (well, 1993) — hands the Stanley Cup to the captain of the team. The captain takes a victory lap before handing off the trophy.

Of course, this most famous of Stanley Cup moments is of captain Joe Sakic defying tradition.

The Handoff

Ray Bourque had waited longer than any other great player in the history of the NHL to win the Stanley Cup. He had been a force in the league for 22 years. He played in 1,612 regular season and 214 playoff games to win that most prized of sports trophies.

As expected in tradition, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman handed the Stanley Cup to captain Joe Sakic. And Sakic defied tradition by skating directly to Ray Bourque to allow him to take the initial victory lap:

It’s not really a surprise that Joe Sakic made that gesture.Nonetheless, the image of Roy Bourque in tears of joy, skating around the arena, and later too choked up to say anything about the win —  most sportscasters name it as one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

The great Ray Bourque, after 22 years, 1,612 regular season and 214 playoff games had finally won the Stanley Cup.