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Sons of Ray Together Again: Bourques reunited in Bridgeport

Chris and Ryan Bourque have reunited for a third time in AHL: ‘Everything comes full circle’

Theirs was a pretty typical relationship between brothers when they were growing up. They just happened to have one of the greatest defensemen of all-time as their dad.

Chris Bourque was old enough to appreciate Ray’s career while it was going on. Ryan Bourque was a little too young and didn’t even like hockey all that much until his father’s championship season in Denver, when Ryan was 10.

Chris has become a modern-day AHL legend. Ryan has carved out a solid eight-year pro career. And this season, they are both Bridgeport Sound Tigers, together for the third time in five seasons. “I don’t think we really knew how enjoyable it was to play with each other until it happened,” Chris said. “Ever since (2014-15 in Hartford), we’ve been trying to get on the same team every year. I got him to Hershey, and he got me to come to Bridgeport. It’s been great.

“Hopefully we find a good thing here and kind of stick it out here for a while.”

Chris, 32, has a resume unlike anyone else who has come through Bridgeport: three-time Calder Cup champion, two-time AHL leading scorer, league MVP and playoff MVP, Team USA Olympian in February. “Just having him around, he’s a difference-maker, and that’s the biggest thing,” said Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson. “He can score at any point in the game. The leadership he brings…he’s seen it all.”

Ryan, 27, found himself without a landing spot a year ago after a season and change in Hershey with his brother. He earned a contract with the Sound Tigers on a tryout and was effective in a few different spots in the lineup for Bridgeport last season.

When Chris’ third stint in Hershey ended after last season, Ryan pitched him on a third reunion in Connecticut, where the New York Islanders were looking to bulk up their AHL affiliate with talented veterans. “Being adults now, it’s kind of polar opposites of what it was like through our childhood,” Ryan said. “It’s as fun and as exciting. Luckily for us, we’re enjoying it as much as when we were kids.”

The Bourque brothers skate together in the summertime near Boston. Ryan gets to spend time with Chris and his wife, Kim, and their two young children, son Kingston and daughter Harlow. Maybe it calls to mind their childhood days in the 1990s. “Playing in the backyard, it was a little bit of a disadvantage for my brother, me being five years older. I used to pound him,” Chris deadpanned. “I would stick him in the net, make him play goalie and kind of beat on him.”

Maybe that was why Ryan was more into soccer and lacrosse when he was young. “Once we went to Colorado for that year (2000-01), that’s when it kind of shifted and I definitely grew a huge love for the game,” Ryan said. “I was finally at an age where I could experience the joys and the cool pros that you have being around the rink. It’s what you’d expect between brothers growing up in the backyard. We were super competitive, whether it was wiffle ball, basketball, street hockey. Being five years younger, I couldn’t really keep up with him in a competitive way until we kind of got to an older age.”

Ryan was drafted by the New York Rangers and began his pro career in Hartford in 2011. In 2014-15, after his second stint in Europe, Chris signed with the Rangers as well for his 10th pro season. “I was happy to be playing in North America again, close to home, with my brother for the first time. There was a lot of excitement going in,” Chris said. The Hartford Wolf Pack won the Northeast Division and two playoff rounds.

The next season, Chris returned to Hershey, where he is the 80-year-old franchise’s fifth-highest all-time scorer and all-time leader in playoff games and points. At the NHL trade deadline that season, the Rangers sent Ryan to Washington – where he rejoined Chris in Hershey, and the Bears reached the 2016 Calder Cup final. “That was a place I had memories of as a teenager, going to visit (Chris) early in his pro career when I was still in high school,” Ryan said. “It’s just weird how the hockey world works. Everything comes full circle.”



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