- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

DENVER About an hour after the Colorado Avalanche won their second Stanley Cup on Saturday night at Pepsi Center, sentimental favorite Ray Bourque was announced on his way to the media center.

For all the people who complain about pampered professional athletes who won't do squat unless money is involved, there is Ray Bourque. At age 40, after his third try in 22 seasons for the brass ring, Bourque paraded out to talk to the reporters on his night of ultimate triumph, just as he does after every other game, win or crushing loss.

Only this time there was a twist. Bourque came out with his family wife Christiane, daughter Melissa, 17, and sons Christopher, 15, and Ryan, 10. No use hiding them; TV cameras had been following their every move since long before the 3-1 win over New Jersey started, giving the Avalanche the Cup in seven games.

He was followed by goalie Patrick Roy and two of his three children. Roy spent little time talking about his own huge accomplishment: becoming the first player in NHL history to be named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy three times. He was more interested in talking about how much it meant to everybody in the dressing room to see Bourque finally raise a Cup.

"I never thought that would happen [being MVP three times] but you know it is not as special, to be honest with you, as seeing Ray raising that Cup, there in the middle of the ice, see his eyes, how excited he was," Roy said.

Roy was followed by general manager Pierre Lacroix, bubbling with excitement, critical of the media as always but nonetheless overjoyed. The Stanley Cup itself stood to his left until coach Bob Hartley calmly strode onto the podium, picked it up and left, leaving his boss yelling for him to return it.

It was unlike any Stanley Cup celebration in the recent past, almost like a family reunion of sorts. There was nothing scripted, no predictable order of appearances, certainly no formality. They were happy, all of them, just to be standing there, but there was also a realization that they were humbled by the experience. This one involved hard work, coming from a 3-2 deficit and having to play two elimination games in the finals. That after surviving a huge scare against Los Angeles in the second round and losing one of their inspirational leaders, Peter Forsberg, to spleen surgery.

The goal for the Avalanche from Day 1 was to be No. 1 overall when the season ended. That way, if it came down to a Game 7, it would be at Pepsi Center. The plan paid off.

"When we started the season, [being] consistent was a big part of our meetings," Roy said. "We all mentioned if we could play a Game 7 in our building, we'd have a chance, and fortunately for us we won two Game 7s here. I thought that was a big factor."

New Jersey worked just as hard but without the same sense of family as the Avalanche. The Devils didn't listen to their coach, Larry Robinson, who has a collection of eight Stanley Cup rings.

Now the road gets truly tough for the Avalanche. Roy, team captain Joe Sakic and top defenseman Rob Blake become unrestricted free agents July 1, and Bourque must make a decision whether to retire and move his family back to Massachusetts (where the two oldest will be in school next year) or come back for another shot.

Tough decisions lie ahead.

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