Vancouver Canucks History: Remembering Defenseman Luc Bourdon
Four years ago today, tragedy struck the Vancouver Canucks organization when their defense prospect Luc Bourdon was killed in a motorcycle accident near his hometown of Shippagan, New Brunswick. Bourdon was just 21 years old.
Bourdon was picked 10th overall in the 2005 draft. Other defensive notables chosen in the first round included Jack Johnson and Marc Staal.
Bourdon was born on Feb 16, 1987 in Lameque, New Brunswick and was an only child. He was raised by his mother, Suzanne Boucher, in the nearby fishing town of Shippagan, on the northeastern part of the Acadian Penninsula.
His ascent to pro athlete was remarkable, considering he suffered from juvenile arthritis and was in a wheelchair as a nine-year-old. After being drafted, he also sustained a serious ankle injury in junior. Shortly after being traded to the Moncton Wildcats during the 2005-06 season, he suffering a fractured fibula, high and low ankle sprains and a second-degree ligament tear.
Doctors said it would take two years for him to recover completely. He was back with the Wildcats in time for their 2006 Memorial Cup appearance, but his mobility wasn't what it had been, and his development was impeded by the games he'd missed.
Along the way, Bourdon picked up gold medals as part of Canada's World Junior Championship teams in 2006 and 2007, along with a silver in the World Junior U18 Championship in 2005. Counting the World Junior squad, Bourdon played with five different teams during the 2006-07 season. He opened the year with the Canucks, then was returned to junior after nine games. After 13 games with the Wildcats, he was traded to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Then, after the Eagles were eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs, the Canucks assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, for five more playoff games.
2007-08 turned out to be Bourdon's final year of hockey. He split his time between the Moose and the Canucks, recording two goals and a plus-7 in 27 games with the big squad. The Canucks missed the playoffs in 2008, so Bourdon's final appearance was in the Moose's six-game loss to the Syracuse Crunch in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
Bourdon must have purchased his motorcycle shortly after returning home. According to eyewitness Manon Degrace in a story from the Vancouver Sun, it was one of “those that go fast, like the big ones, the racers.”
It was around noon when the accident happened. Skies were clear but it was windy, which might have been why Bourdon crossed the center line and came face-to-face with a tractor-trailer. He died instantly.
Bourdon's death resonated strongly among members of the Acadian community throughout Canada's east coast. He was the small-town kid that made it.
His loss also created a void in the Canucks organization. While his ascent to full-time NHLer was not as smooth as it could have been, defensemen typically take longer to develop, and it looked like Bourdon was on the cusp of breaking through. He was seen as a big, rugged blueliner who would patrol the back end for many years to come. Some might say that they roster hole created by his accident is one that the Canucks are still struggling to fill.
Two of Bourdon's best friends in hockey were also devastated by the accident. Kris Letang was in the midst of a Stanley Cup Finals run with Pittsburgh when he heard the news. According to a TSN report, Letang was devastated. "I've lost my best friend," a very emotional Letang told reporters. "I've lost all my energy since I heard, I couldn't skate out there."
Do the Canucks Still Miss Luc Bourdon?
Alex Burrows was Bourdon's closest friend on the Canucks and has helped to ensure that Bourdon's memory has stayed alive. During the Canucks' run to the Finals in 2011, he told the Winnipeg Free Press that he felt Bourdon's presence was supporting them on their journey. "He's going to help me out and help the team out. It's tough to explain," he said. "Sometimes you feel you've got a second gear, and maybe that's it."
Burrows has carried the message of Bourdon's girlfriend Charlene, who spoke at a ceremony in his honour at the start of the 2008-09 season.
"I remember Charlene saying this day should be a celebration of Luc's life and not his death, so I think of all the good times we spent together," Burrows said. "It makes you realize how special life is.
"There are bigger things than hockey, even in the Stanley Cup final. It puts everything back in perspective, how lucky we are to be here and healthy and going after one of my dreams."
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