CALGARY – Wednesday’s game will be a little extra special for Rene Bourque.
Returning to Calgary to face his former team for just the second time since he was traded to Montreal on January 12, 2012, Bourque is looking forward to hitting a career milestone at the Saddledome. About to suit up for the 500th game of his NHL career, the 31-year-old isn’t convinced those numbers truly reflect how much older and wiser he’s gotten since his first days in the league in October 2005.
“I feel like I’ve been playing a long time so I should have more than that but I’ve been hurt so damn much that I should be at 600 or 700 by now,” joked the nine-year NHL veteran, who has yet to play an entire 82-game season due to injuries. “It’s exciting. I really didn’t even realize it until the other day when we played our first game of the season and I looked at the stat sheet and saw I was at 497.”
During his first trip back to the Saddledome in March 2012, Bourque was still using his downtime to clean out his fridge after leaving town abruptly a month-and-a-half earlier. Now an established veteran in the Canadiens’ dressing room, the Lac La Biche, AB native is looking forward to avenging that 5-4 loss two seasons ago.
“I think I was a little nervous last time just because it was my first game against them. I’m pretty relaxed coming back here now,” shared Bourque, whose parents were away in Hawaii during his first Western road swing as a Hab but will get to see him back home in bleu-blanc-rouge this time around. “It’s nothing like it was the first game back. It’s weird playing against old teammates right after you get traded.
“It’s kind of fitting to [hit the milestone] here,” he added, having played 249 games as a Flame. “1,000 is where you’d like to get and obviously that will be tough to get to at my age already. It’s just nice to be back here. I spent three years here and it’s nice to see some familiar faces again.”
Coming off a two-point night against the Flyers in his second game of the season and entering Wednesday’s game as the second-most used forward on the team, Bourque is on his way to returning to the sharpshooting form that saw him record three-straight 20-plus goal campaigns in Calgary.
“I’m the same player I was then,” confirmed Bourque, who started his career in Chicago before suiting up for the Flames and Habs. “I think as you get older and you get more experienced, you tend to change things and adapt to the speed of the game. Hockey in the east is a little different than it is in the west; it’s a little bit more wide open in the east. Out west it’s a bit more tight-checking.
“We only get to come out here once a year and I think everybody was pretty excited to get out on the road, especially for the first one. It’s our longest one of the year and we get to hit all the Western Canadian spots,” he added of the nine-day, four-game trip the team is about to kick off on Wednesday night. “Every city we’re in, there are a few guys from those cities so guys get to see their families and play in front of their friends. It’s exciting for guys to play back in their home towns.”
With Calgary and Edmonton just under six and three hours from Lac La Biche, respectively, Bourque will get to play in front of his own personal cheering section a few times this week. He may hail from Alberta, but since the trade, he’s managed to grow more comfortable with his new hockey family.
“I still had my place here until last October, so I came back in the summer and got it all ready to sell. I had a lot of stuff to take care of before I got rid of it,” he explained. “It’s fun to be back, but I’m settled in Montreal; it’s home now.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
My First Goal: Rene Bourque
Ask a Hab: Rene Bourque
Tattoos and Tailgates with Chuck Hughes: Rene Bourque
Bourque's first strides as a Hab