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

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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.

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