DENVER (AP) -- The red-and-gray beard, as much a part of Ray Bourque's playoff run as his black ''Mission 16W'' cap, is gone. The exhilaration of winning his first Stanley Cup is not.
Bourque, who finally won the cup in his 22nd NHL season, was mesmerized Monday as the Colorado Avalanche celebrated with about 250,000 people two days after their Game 7 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
''The feeling I had going down that street with the people and the cheering -- with the cup -- it's unreal,'' a clean-shaven Bourque said. ''That was my first parade, and I was blown away. Things I haven't experienced and I haven't seen, and everything has to sink in. It's going to take some time.''
With the book closed on a memorable 2000-01 season, the 40-year-old Bourque plans to take two or three weeks to decide whether he wants to keep playing.
Teammates say he could play another five years, and his age did not show in the playoffs. Bourque, who has a $6 million contract option for next season, ranked second on the team in ice time at 28 minutes, 31 seconds per game. He scored four goals and had six assists.
''I could play, no doubt about that,'' he said. ''I played two days ago and it went pretty well. It's a matter of mentally and physically. It's not the easiest thing to play when you're 40 years old. It takes a lot of energy.
''I've just got to see if the fire and the passion and everything you need to be successful playing this game is going to be there. If I decide it is, then I'll continue. If I feel that's going to be tough, we'll see what we do.''
Bourque, the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history, said he plans to take the Stanley Cup to Boston, where he spent more than 20 seasons before requesting a trade in hopes of winning a title.
The Bruins went to the finals twice during Bourque's stay, but never extended the series beyond five games. Their last finals appearance was 1990.
''I've got to see exactly how much time I can spend with the cup,'' Bourque said. ''It's going to come to Boston and maybe Montreal. The fans in Boston and everybody there certainly deserves to win. It's not a lack of support there, and hopefully sometime soon they could experience this. I know winning it in Boston would have been awesome for sure.''
With two cities and every sentimental hockey fan rooting for Bourque, he touched the cup for the first time Saturday night after Colorado's 3-1 series-clinching victory.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called him an hour after the game, and Bourque had more than 20 telephone messages waiting when he returned home. Newspapers around the world prominently displayed Bourque holding the cup, and it's been hard to get through a television sportscast without seeing the moment replayed.
''He's our leader. Look at all he's done with us,'' Avalanche coach Bob Hartley said. ''You guys only saw what he's done for us on the ice, but around the locker room, around the teammates, he's such a good man. To see him lift that cup was a dream come true.''
HEAD:Fans line Denver streets in celebration
HEAD:Bourque plans to bring Stanley Cup to Boston
CREDIT:AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
CAPTION:Avalanche captain Joe Sakic holds the Stanley Cup over his head at the City and County Building in Denver Monday.
DENVER (AP) -- Ray Bourque's firsts with the Stanley Cup continued Monday as the NHL champion Colorado Avalanche were feted with a parade and rally.
''I was expecting it to be crowded and nice, but when you're actually in it and the cup's right next to you, everything kind of comes together, everything you've worked for and dreamed about,'' said Bourque, who was on a Cup-winner for the first time in his 22-year career.
He wasn't the only player singled out by the crowd estimated at 250,000.
To cheers of ''We want Joe,'' Avalanche captain Joe Sakic emerged from a spray of smoke at the City and County building, carrying the Stanley Cup.
''We had one saying all playoffs, and that was 'Mission 16W,''' Sakic said, referring to the 16 victories it took to win the cup. ''Well, mission complete.''
A blast of daytime fireworks capped the afternoon parade that had fire engines carrying the Stanley Cup and the team through downtown.
''I remember the last time we were here,'' Sakic said. ''It's been way too long.''
About 500,000 people attended the rally following the Avalanche's 1996 Stanley Cup win, the first time a team from a sports crazy city had won a world championship. Similar rallies were held following the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl victories in 1998 and 1999.
The Avalanche completed the rally from a 3-2 deficit by beating the New Jersey Devils 3-1 Saturday night in Game 7.
Tina Kite has been an Avalanche fan since 1996 when they moved from Quebec. Despite the 90-degree heat, she donned a felt Avalanche jester hat and joined the rally.
At 5-foot-1, she had to jump up to catch a glimpse of the players on a giant screen.
''They can't see me. But it's my way of saying thank you,'' said the 32-year-old mother of two, who dyes her hair blue whenever the Avalanche play.
Karl Grabin, 22, woke up at 6 a.m. to make the drive from Canon City for the celebration.
''Either team could have won. Bourque gave us enough passion to win,'' he said.
During the parade, the crowd lunged for white pompons Avalanche coach Bob Hartley threw from the top of a fire engine and erupted in cheers when he hoisted the Presidents' Trophy over his head.
Some fans wore foam pucks and aluminum foil replicas of the Stanley Cup on their heads. One man was busy selling buttons insulting the archrival Detroit Red Wings.
Roars echoed off office buildings, dozens of people crowded onto a balcony above the start of the parade, and others leaned from windows to catch Adam Foote pumping his fist at the crowd.
Fans showered with confetti and toilet paper shouted, ''Roy, Roy, Roy,'' as the fire truck carrying MVP goaltender Patrick Roy and the Conn Smythe trophy passed over an Avalanche logo newly painted on the street.
At the end of the route in Civic Center Park, 21-year-old Eric Christensen of Dacono rolled his ''Go, Avs'' sign into a megaphone.
''We've got to get loud!'' he shouted.
Evelyn Edwards, 71, of Littleton, and her 75-year-old husband, Jack, said the celebration was even better than the 1996 party.
''I think the No. 1 story is Ray Bourque,'' said Mike Hayes, 35, of Aurora. ''I literally cried. Just to see him and his family enjoy the moment was wonderful.''
In Washington, Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., praised the team on the floor of the U.S. Senate and mentioned Bourque, who spent 20 1/2 seasons with the Boston Bruins.
''The 40-year-old is one of the best defensemen ever to lace up the skates and has a spot waiting for him in the Hall of Fame,'' Allard said.
Gov. Bill Owens congratulated the team and Mayor Wellington Webb presented two new street signs for Ray Bourque Boulevard and Colorado Avalanche Boulevard.
Associated Press Writer Don Mitchell contributed to this report.
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