CALGARY - If anyone in the hockey world knows a thing or two about the decision Jarome Iginla will soon be facing, it’s Ray Bourque.
Having played his entire career with the club he was sure he’d retire with, Bourque asked for a trade out of Boston 11 years ago to pursue his first Stanley Cup elsewhere.
What followed was a Colorado Avalanche Cup hoisting few hockey fans will ever forget.
While there is a growing faction of fans in Calgary who believe Iginla will soon have to make a similar move if he’s ever going to challenge for the Stanley Cup, the Flames captain insists he’s happy and committed to winning here.
Funny, as Bourque said he once felt the same way in a scenario that was strikingly similar to Iginla’s.
“It was very hard to leave because I always said that I would never leave Boston,” said Bourque, 50, in Calgary to be inducted Tuesday into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
“The reason I left was because it wasn’t a healthy situation at all. It was time. In some ways, I don’t think it was a fair situation to be in after all those years. I was 38 years old, and I was affected mentally by the situation, and I needed to get into a better situation if I was going to continue playing. I wanted to get back into the playoffs and compete for a Cup, but that wasn’t going to happen in Boston and hadn’t happened for quite awhile.”
In Bourque’s case, the Bruins had won just one playoff series in his previous five seasons and were heading towards another post-season miss. The Flames have escaped the first round just once since 1989 and have missed the playoffs two straight years.
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but when you’re in a situation and you know it’s time or it’s the right thing to do you do it,” said Bourque, who lives just north of Boston.
“It’s different for everybody.”
Would the Hall of Famer have regretted saying goodbye to Boston had he not won in Colorado the following year?
“Before I left, they talked about how I was a great player and had done this and done that and they’d say, ‘But you’ve never won a Cup,’” recalled Bourque.
“I’d be foolin’ if I told you that ‘but’ never burned my butt. It’s good that they can’t say that anymore because there’s so much that goes into it and so many things have to go right. To put that on anybody that hasn’t won a Cup is so tough.”
That’s the scenario the 34-year-old Iginla is staring down. With no Cups in 17 years in Calgary, he’ll soon have to ask himself if the organization will give him a legit title shot in the next handful of years.
“I’m not saying anybody should do anything — if he’s happy here and feels right about the situation, that’s great,” said Bourque of Iginla, who would obviously be worried a trade demand would tarnish the iconic name he’s earned here.
“For me, I always thought I was (happy) and I’d never leave. But you know, I left something pretty special and never thought I’d do it. For me, it was always about treating people the way I wanted to be treated — doing it the right way and working hard and being a good teammate and respecting the game and respecting everything around it.
If you do things the right way, how can things go wrong? I think it was shown when I came back to Boston people appreciated how things were done.”
Indeed, the mayor of Boston and the Bruins threw Bourque a homecoming party following his 2001 Stanley Cup win. The fest was attended by 50,000 people.
“I was welcomed back with open arms — it was really an incredible feeling,” said Bourque, well aware Iginla is beloved in Calgary for many of the same reasons.
“It was the mutual respect the fans and I shared. They really appreciated the way I went about my business and how I played.”
In short, no regrets.
“It was a great experience, seeing something else, playing for a great organization and winning a Cup — it was something I’ll remember forever. It was an experience I wished I could’ve lived in Boston.”
But it was clear that wasn’t going to be possible.
So he did something about it.
Iginla has to be wondering if one day he should, too.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.