When Hershey Bears star Chris Bourque was named to the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, he described it as a dream come true.
“It won’t just be the biggest moment of my hockey career,” Chris told USA TODAY Sports. “It will be one of the biggest moments of my life. This is every kid’s dream. Because of that, it doesn’t even seem real to me.”
As Bourque competes in PyeongChang, here’s more about his hockey career and background:
1. Bourque’s Father Is Former NHL Defenseman Ray Borque
Bourque is the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. Ray, 57, had a decorated NHL career that includes five Norris Trophies, one Calder Trophy and one Stanley Cup. He still holds the records for goals, assists, and points by a defenseman.
Ray played 20 seasons with Boston with his name becoming synonymous with the Bruins franchise for two decades. Although he did not win a Stanley Cup in Boston, he accomplished the feat in 2001 — his second year with the Colorado Avalanche.
The hockey gene runs in the Bourque family, Chris’s younger brother, Ryan also plays in the Washington Capitals system.
2. Ray Bourque Played in the 1998 Olympics
Like father, like son. Ray played in the 1998 Nagano Olympics for Canada. According to research by USA Hockey, the Bourques will join Peter and Paul Stastny as the only father-son duos to play for different countries on Olympic ice.
In fact, Bourque’s first Olympic trip was when he was 12 years old to watch his dad compete, who was part of the first Canadian Olympic hockey team with NHL players.
“I was actually there rooting for Canada,” he told NBC Sports.
20 years later, roles will be reversed as his dad will be cheering on Bourque and Team USA.
“When your dad’s playing for a different country, you don’t really have any other option than to cheer for him and want to do well,” Bourque told Sports Illustrated. “Now the roles are reversed. He’s going to have to cheer for us. He doesn’t really have any other choice. He told me he’s not going to wear a jersey, but I’ll get him a sweatshirt. He’ll be wearing red, white and blue the whole tournament.”
Although Ray is from Quebec, and played in three Canada Cups — his family has lived in Boston since ‘79 and he attained U.S. citizenship in ‘96.
“I’m cheering for my son,” he said.
Bourque’s Olympic experience has come full circle — in addition to his dad, his own son will be there to cheer him on.
3. Bourque Is Currently Tied for the AHL Scoring Lead
Bourque was born in Boston but grew up in Topsfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Cushing Academy in 2004. He was drafted 33rd overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals, and played for the Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears before being called up to the NHL in November 2007. Bourque has played 51 NHL games but has never been able to stick in the NHL.
Bourque also played some professional hockey in Switzerland in the NLA. He skated for HC Lugano in ’10-’11, scoring 33 points in 39 games.
Bourque, who plays for the Hersey Bears, is currently tied for the AHL scoring lead this season with 41 points in 40 games. At 5’8″ and 185 pounds, he isn’t the biggest or fastest player in the game, but he’s been a star for eight years in the AHL. Bourque has won three AHL championships, two AHL scoring titles, plus a regular-season and postseason MVP trophy.
Although he hasn’t been able to consistently play in the NHL, he hasn’t given up on that goal.
“I’ve had a solid career, but not the career I envisioned growing up,” Bourque told USA Today. “For whatever reason, when I’ve had the NHL opportunities, I couldn’t produce. Maybe it wasn’t the right fit for me. I feel that I have the skill set to play in the NHL. It just hasn’t happened. I’m still not finished. I feel like I have a lot of good hockey left in me now. My NHL dream still isn’t over.”
4. Bourque Is One of the Veterans on the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team
Bourque is one of the veteran players on the U.S. Olympic team, which is the first without NHL players since 1994.
The NHL announced in April that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The controversial decision brought an end to NHL players participation in the Olympics, which has been allowed for the past four Winter Olympic games. AHL stars aren’t eligible if they’re on NHL contracts, so Bourque signed a one-way AHL deal with Hershey to stay eligible for the Olympics once he landed among the preliminary pool of potential players.
“I hadn’t played in the NHL since 2013. Am I really going to risk not playing in the Olympics just to play one NHL game maybe in a year? I didn’t see the reasoning behind that,” Bourque told Sports Illustrated. “Obviously I’m playing for the Bears right now, and they’re the main focus,” he says, “but I was also playing to get noticed and to get recognized.”
Longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta will captain the team, but Bourque also brings veteran leadership to the team, which is comprised of a mix of minor-leaguers, college students and overseas pros.
“Surreal is the word that I’m going to be using a lot,” Bourque told NBC Sports. “It still feels like a dream to me. I don’t think I’ll really fully get it until I get to the Olympics.”
5. Bourque Is Expected to be a Leading Scorer for Team USA
Bourque has posted 247 points in the last 261 AHL games, and is expected to be among the Americans’ leading scorers in the Olympics.
“He will be a big part of our special teams,” U.S. coach Tony Granato told USA Today. “Chris is a guy who stood out because of his contributions offensively.”
Bourque is willing to take on a variety of roles for the team’s success.
“I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do to help the team,” Bourque said, “whether it is put up points, play good defensively, bring some energy, whatever it takes to win.”