By Matt Barkoff
Although Luc Bourdon’s National Hockey League has only just begun, the prized defensive gem registered on Vancouver hockey fans’ collective radar some time ago.
Ferocious play in his own end, fleet skating and the offensive prowess Bourdon possesses wowed patrons at the IIHF World Junior Championship here in Vancouver last winter when the blueliner starred for Canada’s gold medal winners. In May, he caught the ire of some junior hockey fans with some rough behaviour at the Memorial Cup.
Team Canada stormed the opposition at the Pacific Coliseum and General Motors Place over Christmas where the incarnation of “Luuuuuuc” cheers first cropped up on Bourdon’s behalf. Canucks fans later saw the defenceman’s mean streak with some cheeky stick work against smallish Vancouver Giants forward Gilbert Brule at the Canadian Hockey League’s championship tournament while skating for the host club, Moncton.
Now Bourdon’s the good guy again, and Brule plays for Western Conference foes, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s all part of the game,” Bourdon said, smiling. “There’s a lot of love for Gilbert in Vancouver. I think he’s a great player, and he’s certainly appreciated by the Vancouver fans. I look forward to many battles with him as a Canuck, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to hear some cheers when he comes to town with Columbus.”
CAN’T HOLD HIM DOWN
Though the Canucks drafted Bourdon from the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with their first pick, 10th overall at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound backliner was not expected to make the big club following his first training camp a year ago.
“Last year I came here and nobody thought I would make the team, but this year it’s a little bit different,” he said. “There was a better chance for me to make it this time with the full support of the franchise.”
Bourdon was slowed by a broken ankle that limited him to just 20 games with Val-d’Or. However he broke out offensively with two goals and 18 assists – a point per game – before his selection to Team Canada. While trying out for the national squad, the Shippagan, N.B. native was dealt to Moncton.
Fully recovered from his injury and fresh off top billing at the WJC, Bourdon collected a goal and seven helpers in 10 games for the Wildcats and became the club’s front line blueliner through the QMJHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup.
“Injuries are part of the game but that’s behind me now,” said the 19-year-old. “I think more of the positive experiences I had last year like the World Juniors and the other good things that happened for me. It’s all okay now; my ankle is back to 100 percent.”
Following an off-season that saw Canucks General Manager Dave Nonis ship out 14 players from last year’s roster, spots up and down the lineup were up for grabs. All Bourdon wants to achieve is consideration for a place anywhere his services are required.
“I don’t really have any expectations for where I might fit in on the roster,” he said. “My first goal was to make the team, stay here all season and, as it goes along, I’ll probably get more and more confidence. I’ll try to get more and more ice time, but just making the team was a challenge for me.”
No one would dare put pressure on Bourdon to succeed departed defenceman Ed Jovanovski, but if the former Quebec Leaguer’s offence keeps improving, the comparisons may not be all that far off. The so-called new NHL allowed smaller players to come back into vogue, but mobile rearguards with size and smarts are vital now, too.
“I’m a pretty good skater so I think with the new rules, without all the hooking and holding, that will help me,” Bourdon explained. “I’m also a pretty physical guy. I like to throw some bodies around and that’s basically my style of play.”
Bourdon may have to find a new hobby now that he resides on the ‘other’ coast after spending his initial 19 years in the Maritimes. He and his pals played music during their down time, so if any local Vancouver band is looking for a guitarist…well, perhaps for now Bourdon will simply try to make his beautiful music on the ice.
“In my off time I usually play a lot of music,” Bourdon said, his face brightening. “Back home we’ve got a band, and we just jam for fun every two or three days. It’s a lot of fun. I play lead guitar but no vocals because I’m a terrible singer. It’s a lot of fun, but I just stick to playing and keep my mouth shut.”
The only noise likely to be heard from Bourdon this season is the rattling of the boards as he slams Canucks opponents into them around the league while he quietly goes about his business as an NHL rookie.