AHL

Chris Bourque
Just Sports Photography

Chris Bourque once cheered Canada at Olympics; now he plays for U.S.

1 Comment

U.S. hockey player Chris Bourque‘s second Olympic experience will be vastly different than his first, 20 years ago at the Nagano Winter Games.

“I was actually there rooting for Canada,” he said Friday.

Bourque, then 12 years old, accompanied his dad, Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who was part of the first Canadian Olympic hockey team with NHL players in 1998.

Bourque remembers the bobsled here. The figure skating there. The curling over there.

“It’s kind of like going to Disney World,” the Hershey (Pa.) Bears forward said in a press conference Friday, the same day he was named to his sixth American Hockey League All-Star game. Bourque is the AHL scoring leader with 39 points in 35 games.

Bourque will return to the Olympics next month as one of the veteran players on the U.S. Olympic team, the first without NHL players since 1994. The full roster is here.

He will march in the Opening Ceremony.

“That’s going to be an experience, walking with fellow U.S. Olympians and with the flag and everything that comes with that with the other countries being there,” he said. “It’s bigger than hockey.”

It’s also an opportunity Bourque never thought he would get. Bourque is like the Crash Davis of hockey.

“It’s one of the biggest moments in not only my hockey career, but in my life,” Bourque said in a Monday press release when the 25-man Olympic team was named.

He is the active career AHL scoring leader with 678 points among Hershey, Hartford, Providence and Portland.

He has played in the top U.S. minor league off and on since the 2004-05 season. He has also played 51 NHL games, including 18 with his father’s longtime club, the Boston Bruins, in the 2012-13 season.

“For every guy it’s the ultimate goal to play in the NHL, and I don’t think anybody really gives up on that dream ’til the day they retire,” Bourque said last year, according to The Associated Press. “There’s always a chance. It’s just about getting opportunity, about [other players] having injuries and playing well and that kind of stuff needs to kind of happen at the right time. I’m going to keep grinding away and hopefully I do get another opportunity.”

When the NHL said last year it would not send players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, Bourque became an instant favorite to make the U.S. team. Other AHL stars aren’t eligible if they’re on NHL contracts.

Bourque has already spoken to his father about what’s ahead.

“He just said enjoy it,” he said. “It’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, obviously, and just enjoy every second of it.”

He pointed out that he went to high school with two of the other 47 players on the U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams — Meghan Duggan and Broc Little.

“Surreal is the word that I’m going to be using a lot,” Bourque said. “It still feels like a dream to me. I don’t think I’ll really fully get it until I get to the Olympics.”

Bourque’s Olympic experience will come full circle. Not only will his dad fly to PyeongChang, but so will his wife and two children.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: PyeongChang Olympic hockey schedule announced

Hockey player tells dad he made Olympic team (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bobby Butler has played for 11 hockey teams in nine years.

Ottawa Senators. Binghamton Senators. New Jersey Devils. Albany Devils. Zagreb. Nizhny.

On Monday, the 30-year-old journeyman forward was named to another team — the Olympic team. When the NHL passed on these Olympics, the path opened for players like Butler.

Then came the moment when Butler broke the news to his dad. At a hockey rink, of course.

John Butler coached Marlborough (Mass.) High’s hockey team for 25 years, including five seasons with Bobby on the squad, before retiring in 2011.

“He told me what it would take,” Butler said in August, according to the MetroWest Daily News in Massachusetts. “He gave me the tools.”

In 2005, Marlborough won its first state title with Butler scoring four goals in the championship game at TD Garden (then still known as the Fleet Center). John was reportedly in tears.

”He’s been on the phone ever since the game ended,” Butler said that day, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that he passed up playing at a prep school to suit up for his dad. “He gets five e-mails every 10 minutes from old Panthers. Everyone knows what this means to him.”

Bobby Butler went on to the University of New Hampshire. He was a finalist for the NCAA men’s hockey player of the year award in 2010. He signed a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators.

He played 92 NHL games those first two full seasons. Then he started to bounce among NHL teams and between the NHL and the AHL.

After three seasons, Butler moved to Sweden’s top league. Then to Russia’s KHL.

He returned to the U.S. this year, reportedly saying he wanted to spend the rest of his career at home with his wife and two sons.

Butler leads the Milwaukee Admirals — a Nashville Predators affiliate — with 13 goals and 25 points this season.

He will soon return to playing overseas, but he relishes this opportunity.

He played for Team USA at the 2013 World Championship, but in February he will do so at the Olympics for the first time.

“What an honor — I’m still a bit surprised, but I’m certainly humbled by making the roster and excited about the opportunity,” Butler said, according to the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette. “Just knowing I was on the list for consideration was an honor, but to actually make the final roster is unreal.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster

U.S.’ top Olympic goal scorer in 2006 returns to international hockey

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brian Gionta, who led the 2006 U.S. Olympic hockey team in goals, is practicing with an AHL club in preparation for what could be a 2018 Olympic run.

The 38-year-old forward with 15 seasons of NHL experience said he will play in an international competition in mid-November.

Gionta, who wasn’t on the 2010 or 2014 Olympic teams, made the comments after his first practice with his hometown Rochester Americans on Tuesday.

Gionta did not specify the competition, but USA Hockey will evaluate 2018 Olympic hopefuls at the Deutschland Cup in Germany in November. The Deutschland Cup roster is expected to be announced next week.

Gionta has been interested since as far back as August about potentially playing in a second Olympics in PyeongChang. Since Gionta isn’t signed with an NHL club, he is eligible.

“The focus is on the Olympics,” Gionta’s agent said, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Monday. “Obviously, he still loves to play and was not lacking NHL opportunity. But this works family wise.”

Gionta and his wife have three kids and preferred to stay in New York after he did not re-sign with the Buffalo Sabres after last season.

“So we made some hard decisions, and with that come other opportunities,” Gionta said Tuesday.

Gionta is also scheduled to be the lone men’s hockey player among more than 50 Olympians and Olympic hopefuls at a 100-day countdown event in Times Square on Nov. 1.

A USA Hockey official confirmed two weeks ago that Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — signed a 25-game tryout deal last week with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, which keeps him eligible for PyeongChang. Malone confirmed Friday that he is trying to make another Olympic team.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Malone and Gionta are older than all but one previous U.S. Olympic hockey player (Chris Chelios, who played at age 40 in 2002 and 44 in 2006 and is an assistant on the PyeongChang team).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic hockey schedule announced