- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

As an ugly scene got even uglier for the Washington Capitals in the third period of an exhibition game against Buffalo on Wednesday night, Chris Bourque’s edgy disposition advanced to an outright nasty stage.

Suddenly, it no longer mattered to Bourque, all of 5-foot-7 and supposedly 170 pounds, that he was a shrub skating among redwoods. His stick got up a little, his whacks across ankles had a little more zing and his passes had more velocity. And his language, well, it wasn’t exactly fit for an altar boy.

“Whenever you’re down, you don’t like losing,” he said yesterday, munching on what he claimed was toast but could have been anything. “I’m a competitive player, and losing is not really a good feeling.”

“That’s an excellent sign,” Caps general manager George McPhee said when Bourque’s edgy side was brought up. “He seems to be a real proud young man, and he plays with some pride. He was not happy with the way the game was going, so he started playing physical. And if he can throw his weight around, anybody should.”

Bourque comes to the Caps’ camp with a pedigree. His father, Ray, was a Hall of Fame defenseman who played most of his career in Boston but won a Stanley Cup with Colorado. Chris was picked 33rd overall by the Caps in 2004 and played for a season at Boston University, where he was the MVP of the prestigious Beanpot as a freshman before dropping out to devote his life to hockey.

Bourque wants to be known as a good player in his own right, not as Ray Bourque’s son. He looks something like his dad but talks easier with strangers, although both share quiet speaking tones.

The Caps have Bourque targeted for Hershey in the American Hockey League. McPhee believes every player needs a season in the minors to adjust to life as a pro, but Bourque’s determination and ability are making that reassignment tough.

“Chris has elite hockey sense,” McPhee said. “If we were grading in that category, he would get the highest grade you could give. He has great awareness on the ice, anticipates well, has a real creative mind. What you like most about these types of players is that they really compete. They play with an edge, and nothing seems to bother them during the game. And the tougher the game gets, the better they play.”

Caps coach Glen Hanlon believes the rule changes — in which restraining fouls will be called with relish — will benefit smaller players.

“He came here with the intention of making this team, and that’s what we want all our players to do,” Hanlon said. “I don’t think [about] size. I think he’s a lucky recipient of the rules change. For him and a lot of other players, size is not really an issue.”

For Chris Bourque, size is something other people worry about. He knows he can play among the redwoods and prosper.

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