DENVER (AP) The Colorado Avalanche retired their first-ever jersey on Saturday night, hoisting defenseman Ray Bourque”s No. 77 sweater to the rafters prior to the team”s game against Edmonton.

Paul Wong
Even though he only played a short while in Colorado, Ray Bourque”s jersey was retired by the Avalanche Saturday night. Bourque spent 20-plus seasons with the Boston Bruins before being traded to Colorado. <br><br>AP PHOTO

Bourque played just 15 months in Colorado but helped the Avalanche win a Stanley Cup last June before retiring.

Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix called Bourque “one of the greatest defensemen ever to have played the game of hockey” in presenting Bourque and his family with several presents, including a painting of a Colorado mountain scene.

After a videotape of Bourque”s Colorado highlights Bourque made a short speech to a cheering crowd.

Bourque thanked the Avalanche for helping him realize his “hockey dream, the ultimate prize which is the Stanley Cup.”

Bourque played 20-plus seasons in Boston before asking to be traded to a contender, and was dealt to Colorado on March 6, 2000.

Bourque had his Bruins sweater retired Oct. 4 in Boston.

A 19-time All-Star during his 22-year NHL career, Bourque thanked his teammates, particularly goaltender Patrick Roy and captain Joe Sakic.

“I watched Patrick set the NHL record for most wins,” Bourque said. “I watched Joe have an MVP season and make incredible plays, but my favorite pass was when he handed me that Stanley Cup.

“I am honored and humbled by this very special evening.”

The Avalanche went 12-2-1 immediately after the Bourque trade and advanced to the Western Conference finals, then won the Cup after posting an NHL-best 52-16-10-4 record.

“We had a good run while he was here,” Sakic said. “Those 15 months, it was incredible.”

“It”s not too often that you see a player come in for less than two years and end up getting his jersey retired,” Colorado defenseman Rob Blake said. “That just shows how important he was to this team.”

Roy said Bourque “deserves this honor for what he”s done in the game. He meant a lot for our team.”

Every Avalanche player wore one of Bourque”s No. 77 jerseys during the warmup before Saturday night”s game. Bourque signed the jerseys, which will be auctioned throughout the Pepsi Center with proceeds going to the New York Police and Firemen Widows” and Children”s Benefit Fund.

Although Bourque”s sweater is the first the Avalanche have retired, the franchise retired the numbers of four players when they were the Quebec Nordiques: Peter Stastny (26), Marc Tardif (8), J.C. Tremblay (3) and Michel Goulet (16).

The Avs made the decision to retire Bourque”s number when he announced his retirement on June 26. Lacroix said Bourque will “always be a part of the Colorado Avalanche family” and said his “extraordinary contribution will never be forgotten.”

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