Murphy, GM Fletcher also selected
DANVERS, Mass. -- Ray Bourque was a 19-year-old kid from Montreal when he began his NHL career just hoping to play one good game after another. His focus wasn't on making the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday, there was little doubt he would be elected.
"You look back, you go, 'Wow, what an incredible career,' one that I would have never thought would be as good," said Bourque, a rookie with Boston in 1979. "You can't project these things and, if you do, I don't think you'll be well liked by your teammates or by a lot of people."
Three of the NHL's top offensive defensemen -- Bourque, Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy -- were elected in their first year of eligibility. Cliff Fletcher was chosen in the builders' category after serving as general manager of Calgary and Toronto.
The official induction ceremony will be Nov. 8 at the Hall of Fame in Toronto.
While both Murphy and Coffey played with four Stanley Cup winners, Bourque didn't win one until his final season. He won it in 2001 with Colorado after being traded late in the previous season, his 21st with the Bruins.
"This is the final chapter, the Hall of Fame," Bourque said at a news conference near his home north of Boston. "Not much more is going to happen in terms of things coming my way."
Then he spoke of his son, Chris, seated beside him and headed for Boston University as a freshman hockey player next season. Bourque plans to watch his games, but Chris also is expected to be selected early in the NHL draft June 26 in Raleigh, N.C.
"I don't miss the game," Bourque said. "It's a young man's game. I was so happy to be able to play at the level I did for so long that walking out on my terms is incredible."
Bourque, who learned of his election in a phone call from selection committee chairman Jim Gregory, holds career records for defensemen in goals (410), assists (1,169) and points (1,579). The eighth overall pick in the 1979 draft, he won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Bourque won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman five times.
Coffey, the best rushing defenseman since Bobby Orr, is second to Bourque in goals (396), assists (1,135) and points (1,531) by a defenseman. Coffey won the Norris Trophy three times. He was a key player on three championship teams in Edmonton and one in Pittsburgh.
"It was quite emotional," said Coffey, who finished his career with 18 games for the Bruins in 2000-01, after Bourque had left for Colorado. "When you get a [phone] call like this, you're just blown away."
Murphy is second all-time in games played by a defenseman (1,615) and fifth all-time in points (1,216). He won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh and two more with the Detroit Red Wings.
"I was well aware of the selection committee meeting in Toronto," Murphy said. "But I've learned in my career not to take anything for granted. So when the call did come, I was pleasantly surprised."
Fletcher helped build the Calgary team that won the Stanley Cup in 1989 and turned the Maple Leafs into contenders in the early 1990s.
"It's more than special for me, going in on the tails of three great defensemen like Ray, Paul and Larry," he said.
Those who did not receive enough votes for induction included Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Liut as well as first-year eligibles Kirk McLean, Tony Granato, Marty McSorley and Esa Tikkanen.
Being elected puts Bourque among "the best of the best," he said. "Being part of that group is truly an honor and a privilege."
Bourque had turned on his cell phone on the back nine at Salem Country Club. He was on the 13th hole when Gregory called.
"I really didn't know how I was going to react, but it really gave me goose bumps," Bourque said. "I couldn't hit my next chip shot."
But he settled down and finished with five birdies and a 78.
"It was a good day," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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