Every championship team needs the foot soldiers that fight the battles in the trenches. These are the players that allow the stars to shine, while these foot soldiers go relatively unknown.
Phil Bourque was one of those players for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Without his contributions, it is largely agreed upon among Penguin fans that there would be no back to back championships. Despite not being known as a scorer, the player who affectionately became known as "The Ol' Two-Niner" among fans swiftly became a favorite in Pittsburgh.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Bourque and he was kind enough to walk down memory lane with me. Without further delay, I present to you, from the Pittsburgh Penguins, #29, Phil Bourque!
Justin--You were part of several dismal teams in Pittsburgh before the team found success. Were there times you began to wonder if the Penguins would ever turn the corner?
Phil--I spent most of my first few seasons in the AHL playing for the Baltimore Skipjacks when the Pens were really bad. We had a good team down there and I know a lot of players were happier being there than what was going on up in Pittsburgh. We all knew it would get better but also knew if something major didn't happen it was going to take a long, long time.
Justin--What was the mood in the organization like when Mario Lemieux was drafted?
Phil--The hype around Mario was enormous...but after one day on the ice with him you knew that he was an incredible talent.
Justin--How soon did you know Lemieux would be a cornerstone of the franchise in Pittsburgh? What was it like watching him mature into the superstar he became?
Phil--You knew right away Mario was going to be the cornerstone of the franchise.... I remember when he came back from the Canada Cup in 1987 and how he was a different person off and on the ice.... and I mean that in a good way.
Justin--As one of the longest serving members of the team when you won the 1991 Patrick Division, what were your feelings and emotions when you finally reached the Stanley Cup finals?
Phil--To finally reach the SCF in 1991 was a dream come true for a kid from Chelmsford, Mass. and at that point you are so focused on the task at hand all you can think about is winning the next shift, period, game.
Justin--One cannot have an interview with you without asking about Lemieux’s goal in Game 2. You assisted on that goal; what was it like being at ice level watching it unfold?
Phil--Truth be told..... I went for a change after passing the puck to Mario and was on the bench when he danced Shawn Chambers. I knew if you got the puck to Mario as soon as he yelled for it good things could happen.
Justin--The Minnesota North Stars were very vocal after they won Game 3 in the 1991 Finals. Did their comments serve as a motivator for you as a team the rest of the way?
Phil--The comments by the North Stars ended up right on our board.... When you have played 82 regular season games and 20 something playoff games physically and mentally you are pretty burnt ...... Those comments definitely lit a fire under our team.
Justin--Describe the differences between Scotty Bowman and Bob Johnson. Both led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup; how did both help your career?
Phil--Both Badger Bob and Scotty were amazing coaches in their own way.... Bob was a very positive coach that had a way through his personality that made you want to go through a brick wall for him..... Scotty had a brilliant mind for the technical part of the game and was the best I've ever seen behind the bench.
Justin--Do you keep in contact with many teammates from the 1991 and 1992 Cup teams?
Phil--I do try to keep in touch with many of my mates from 91 and 92.... Funny when I see those guys it is different from any other teammates from other teams because we won the ultimate prize together.
Justin--What’s it like working in radio for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization?
Phil--My current position as radio analyst for the Pens is a dream come true for me and I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to work for the Pens again and talk about my favorite team.
Justin--What keeps you busy away from the rink?
Phil--Away from the game most of my time is with my family..... My daughter is 8 and my son is 6..... when I get a little bit of free time I try to work on my golf game and enjoy a nice cigar.