Growing up in a working-class family on the outskirts of Montreal, Boston Bruins legend Ray Bourque developed an affinity for fried bologna. The Bourque family got to indulge in the treat on Saturday nights if they had had a good week financially. After a career that saw him win a Stanley Cup, five Norris trophies and become the NHL's all-time leader in goals and assists for defensemen, Bourque opened his own restaurant, Tresca, on Boston's North Shore. The menu includes nacho and pasta dishes -- both with bologna. While he was back in Montreal to take part in the league's centennial celebrations, ESPN.com chatted with the Hall of Fame defenseman about his career, involvement in the game and owning a restaurant.
ESPN.com: Growing up, which players did you admire?
Bourque: I grew up in Montreal, so Bobby [Orr] I think is the ultimate player in the history of the game. But I really enjoyed watching Serge Savard, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe, who were the big three for all those years. So I was a big Canadiens fan growing up, and I'd even [skip] school to go to the parades when they'd win the Cup. I was a big fan.
ESPN.com: Do you have any memories of your first game at the Montreal Forum or other memorable moments in hockey growing up?
Bourque: Yeah, it was always very exciting, playing in the Forum. Lafleur, Robinson, all these guys that you kind of grew up watching. For me, it took awhile to actually be able to play well at the Forum. I was just trying way too hard and trying to do too much, and that would get me in trouble. So it took a little bit of time, but it was always a really special game on my schedule, whenever we played Montreal, especially in Montreal.
ESPN.com: You're the NHL's all-time leader in shots (6,206). How were you able to get so many pucks on net?
Bourque: I was an accurate shot. I had good vision. We played in a small building. When you played in the Boston Garden, a shot on net was never really a bad play. I think that stat is a little bit overrated in some ways.
ESPN.com: You're up by about 600 shots (Jaromir Jagr is second all-time, with 5,619 shots).
Bourque: Well, I remember getting 19 shots in one game against the [Quebec] Nordiques. The total shots in that game was 72 shots on goal for our team against the Quebec Nordiques. The game finished 3-3. I had some really good shots, and the last shot of the game, I had a one-timer right in the slot and [Ron] Tugnutt made an incredible save. After the game, every one of our guys went up to Tugnutt and tapped him on the pads. It was an incredible performance on his part.
ESPN.com: You were also pretty astute in your own end. How hard is it to maintain a career like that, consistently being effective at both ends of the ice?
Bourque: I took a lot of pride in all areas of my game. Defensively is one that came first, more or less. You're a defenseman. You're there to prevent goals and opportunities. I took a lot of pride in that, with the ability to get involved -- making a good first pass, supporting the attack, being able to jump into holes, good shot, good vision, good hands, good skater. It was never satisfied. It was looking for perfection on a daily basis, knowing I'd never reach it, but being as good as I could be on a daily basis.
When I look back on my career, that's pretty much what made me. I'd always said that once the career was over, I'd look back and evaluate it and maybe give myself a pat on the back. But up until that wasn't done, I was looking to be better and better and better. That's what I'm proud of: my consistency over the years, 22 years.
ESPN.com: And what about your decision to leave Boston for the Colorado Avalanche to pursue a Stanley Cup. How challenging was that?
Bourque: That was probably the hardest decision I ever made in terms of my hockey career. It was asking to be traded. I think it says a lot about the situation I was in at that point in time. I wanted to compete again in the playoffs. That wasn't going to happen in Boston. It was a really great experience for a year and a half. I went to Denver, won a Cup, and competed with a great team. It was a really positive experience for my wife and I and our family.
ESPN.com: Do you remember what you were thinking when Joe Sakic gave you the Cup?
Bourque: "Finally. Finally. It's so hard to win. What a feeling." It's like a relief, waiting all that time. I just want everyone to experience that. It's sad, there's so many great players that never got to hoist the Cup. I was just happy I did.
ESPN.com: What's your relationship like with Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs?
Bourque: I think he's a guy that's been around for almost 45 years, owner of an Original Six team and the job that he's done, what he's built in Boston with the new Garden and what's going on around that. It's just maintaining the high level of an Original Six team. He's done a great job over 40 years. He deserves a lot of credit and getting into the Hall of Fame. I was really happy for him. It's well-deserved.
ESPN.com: If you could take a trait from one of your teammates as a player, what would it be and why?
Bourque: I don't know. I think you learn from a lot of your teammates, like Brad Park. I learned a lot of wisdom from him. As a first-year guy, he took me under his wing. We had a lot of chats about the game and other stuff. That was a lot of fun. I think I took some wisdom off of Brad.
And my hands were OK, but Rick Middleton's or Adam Oates' hands were pretty special. Probably those. Other than that, I don't know. I'm pretty happy with what I had to play with.
ESPN.com: When you watch the game today, who are your favorite players?
Bourque: On defense, I like [Shea] Weber, I like [Drew] Doughty, [Duncan] Keith. I've gotten to see Zdeno Chara play a lot of games. How he developed into a player, I remember him coming in and then where he is now and where he was, and what he's become the last seven or eight years. He's been a Norris contender for many, many years. I enjoy watching those guys. I think [Sidney] Crosby's the best player in the league. I love how he competes and the attitude he brings every day to the rink. My oldest son [Chris, who was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2004 and spent part of the 2009-10 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins] played with him. He said he practiced like he played, and a guy that brings that kind of attitude every day, I think it's so special for a team. The next one coming, I think, is [Connor] McDavid. I don't think I've ever seen anyone play as fast as he does, or under control as he does and that speed. It's pretty cool to watch.
ESPN.com: Since retiring, you've opened an Italian restaurant, Tresca. You also do a lot of charity work. How has life been post-retirement? Is owning a restaurant similar in any way to playing in the NHL?
Bourque: No, I wouldn't say owning a restaurant is in any way comparable to playing in the NHL. It's a lot harder in some ways.
ESPN.com: How so?
Bourque: It's very competitive. I'm in the North End. It's like Little Italy in Boston. It's probably one square mile and there's 80 really good Italian restaurants. Hockey, I knew what I was doing. The restaurant business is more or less getting involved with a friend and not knowing all that much about it and learning a lot more about it. It's been 12 years now.
I have the restaurant, and then I have the charity work. We started our own family foundation this summer. It's called the Bourque Family Foundation. I'm very excited about that, starting that, and getting my kids involved and having something for them. I have two kids that play pro hockey [Chris and Ryan], and they've done a lot of charity stuff. We're excited we established something as a family and have our kids and grandchildren involved. Way down the road, we hope to build something that's going to sustain itself.
My wife also has a beautiful spa on the North Shore that we built. I've also been a spokesman for a major bank called Berkshire Bank. So all these things keep me pretty busy, busy enough.
I still skate quite often, of course every winter. Sometimes it's with Bruins alumni, sometimes just with buddies. We call it the Good, the Bad and the Ugly skate. We have all kinds that show up for that one. I also play a lot of golf during the summer. I'm always on the course.
ESPN.com: Are you a big music fan or TV watcher? What are you listening to or watching?
Bourque: TV, I watch Ray Donovan. I'm a big sports fan. I watch the Pats, Red Sox, Bruins, keep an eye on the Celtics. I've got to say, I'm a homer. I cheer for the home team. We're pretty spoiled, being in Boston, with that sports city and how lucky we are in having teams that compete pretty much every year.