Friday, May 30, 2008

Shippagan loses its star

"I don't know if you know Shippagan," Guysma Hache said on the phone from there. "It's a very small city — only 2,500 people. We are a French community. The kids around here, they dreamed to have a chance to see Luc Bourdon bring the Stanley Cup here. He was a hero. That was the dream of a lot of kids."
There are a zillion stories like Luc Bourdon's across this country, a local boy made good in the game everyone knows and follows.

In Shippagan, Bourdon wasn't just a celebrity — he was a virtual head of state, a 21-year-old hockey prince who had ascended to the join the stars of the faraway NHL. Years from now, street signs, arenas and schools were to have his name, as the quiet kid from up the street helped shine a light on his sleepy hometown.

Yesterday afternoon, on a lonely highway between Lamenque and the quiet francophone community where he spent his first 16 years, the dream ended.

Some stations here in Toronto ran footage of the accident scene, something that wouldn't have made the press everywhere, and it was difficult to watch. A yellow semi-trailer truck with its hood in tatters down the middle, a slick black motorcycle in pieces on the pavement underneath, and blue tarps masking the rest.

To hockey fans in Vancouver, Bourdon was still an enigma, a high draft pick who had yet to round into form, but a player that had starred in his adopted homeland as a junior on the world stage. Still just 21, there was potential there, and being he could have simply been a slow-developing blueliner, who's to say what heights, exactly, he would have reached.

Bourdon was an Acadian, through and through, and that explained, in part, his shyness. Shippagan is a world away from the bright lights of Vancouver.

His uncle was a crab fisherman, and every summer until he signed his NHL contract, Bourdon was on the boats with his family, earning a living the way countless others in the area do.

There have been outpourings of support in the hours after his death, including groups on Facebook and tributes around the 'net. His family, understandably, has remained quiet, but one friend left a message on a blog explaining the incident, saying that Bourdon's girlfriend watched the accident unfold in a car trailing his newly purchased bike.


We've seen small-town Newfoundland rejoice this week as one hero chases the Stanley Cup, but a neighbour is now mourning its boy wonder.

Luc Bourdon Country is down a star.

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At 5:50 p.m., May 30, 2008, Blogger Blitzen said...

Excellent post of your best. Thanks for bringing it home for us.

At 8:08 p.m., May 30, 2008, Anonymous Jennifer said...

James, I want to sincerely thank you for posting this. I was glad to read such amazing things about such a wonderful young man.

As a rider, I have to say, that more often than not, most near misses I have had are due to a cager (driver) on a cellphone, putting on makeup, eating, texting, reading, shaving (yes, shaving) or simply not paying attention. Also, you have no idea how SERIOUSLY badly people tailgate until you’re on a motorcycle. It’s one thing to tailgate another car, it’s another thing to do it to a bike. The most damage you can do to a car is a fender bender, but you can kill a rider. So if anything could come of this, hopefully drivers will pay more attention and give more care to the riders around them.

I’m sure Luc probably was inexperienced, but to blame his death solely on riding is simply an excuse to find a scapegoat. He wanted to ride and it probably gave him joy that most people can't understand. My heart goes out to his family and I grieve for his loss. It’s always heartbreaking when a soul so young is taken from us. We never know when our number is up. All we can do is live our lives in the best way we know how, live each day to the fullest, and treat others with love and compassion.

And never let a loved one leave the house without saying I love you.


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