Press Round-Up - JUN.02.08
They came by the thousands to an arena here, a fishing village in remote New Brunswick, and waited in line for hours to pay tribute to Luc Bourdon, the area's fallen star.
They left emotionally wrecked.
Family, friends, neighbours and fans had their hearts tugged, their souls gutted and their lives enriched in a wondrously touching memorial.
Volunteers managed to transform the aging hockey rink into a place of beauty, which powerfully echoed Bourdon's life, the one followed so closely by so many who live here.
"Seeing this, I just feel like crying and crying and I'm not even a member of his family," said Elva Chiasson, who travelled from nearby Caraquet. "My heart is bleeding.
"What a wonderful, peaceful memorial. His whole life was there, his hopes, his dreams. What a life he had in 21 years."
On display at Sunday's memorial were more than 30 medals Bourdon won, the puck from his first NHL goal and jerseys from all the teams he played with since junior.
There was a hockey net beside Bourdon's casket. The centre piece of the net was his beloved Canucks jersey, hanging.
On top was his helmet. His sticks criss-crossed the net and wedged into the netting -- top shelf, right side -- was a puck. It was in the spot where he scored his last goal.
"It was incredible, people were so overwhelmed," said arena manager Gilles Cormier. "We didn't think this many people were going to come. One Canucks fan came all the way from Vancouver. He was a season ticket holder. He left crying."
There were more than 10 displays in the arena which had more than 100 photos of Bourdon.
There he was as a skinny wide-eyed kid starring for his peewee team, looking anything but NHL ready.
Right beside that, he was leading Team Canada, looking every bit the hockey star many people thought he could be.
There were fun shots of him playing Guitar Hero, joking with friends.
There were telling shots, a few where he had his arm slung lovingly around his doting mother, Suzanne.
There he was in a dozen photos with his high school sweetheart Charlene Ward, the beautiful girl who many people believe Bourdon was going to propose to this summer.
He was so happy. It was so sad.
"It was a very, very sad day for Luc's family," said Guysma Hache, a close family friend who worked with Bourdon's mother and father to pick all the photos.
"A lot of people showed a lot of respect for them and that meant a lot. We expect even more people [for today's 2 p.m. funeral], a lot more, that's for sure."
Bourdon's loved ones met with every one of the mourners, including Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang.
He left his team in the middle of the Stanley Cup final to come to Shippagan for the visitation.
"Yes, hockey is important, but when you have a friend like that and you lose him, it's more important than anything," Letang said. "He helped me with everything, my game, my life."
Letang landed in Moncton at 1 p.m. and drove more than four hours to be at the memorial.
"I know his mom, Suzanne, I know what she's going through and I want to give her my full support," Letang said. "She needs all the support she can get. She gave everything to Luc. She sacrificed everything. She made Luc a great hockey player, a great person." More
Hache said Bourdon's was the second fatal accident in the past 20 years that has happened virtually on his doorstep, a curved stretch of Highway 113 where people continue to speed even though there is a collection of flowers on the roadside marking his death.
"I knew it was going to happen again one of these days. I'm just being a realist," said Hache, adding that in the last accident, about 20 years ago, two people died. "Some people have always hated this curve because people have always gone fast here. They hate it more now."
Hache was one of the first people on the scene. He saw Bourdon's girlfriend, Charlene, by the side of the road. In her car, she had been following Bourdon, who was on a powerful Suzuki GSXR-1000 motorbike, which he'd bought about two weeks earlier.
Charlene teamed with Bourdon's mom, Suzanne Boucher, in an unsuccessful attempt to talk the Vancouver Canucks prospect out of buying the bike, Boucher told The Province.
Charlene witnessed the horrific incident.
She was inconsolable on the scene and needed medical attention, including oxygen.
"She was having a total breakdown, understandably, and they had to bring her to the hospital," Hache said.
There were gusts of wind Thursday on the stretch of oceanside highway. There was also a soft rain, which police believe may have been a factor as sleek conditions can be troublesome for a new rider. Bourdon had his motorcycle licence for just 10 days.
Police now believe he may have been trying to pass another truck when he lost control and crashed head-on into a transport truck.
Hache said the stretch of road used to have more of sharp angle and drivers were forced to slow down.
In the 1970s, the province regraded the highway, softening the corner and turning it into a more gradual bend.
"It just made the cars go faster," Hache said. "Something new should be done." More
In the aftermath of the Luc Bourdon tragedy, there has been something of an outcry about young athletes and their use of motorcycles.
You can understand the feeling. Bourdon's death seems meaningless, but if a larger lesson can be extracted, it takes on a purpose.
Maybe another young man will be saved if NHL teams prohibit their players from riding motorbikes. Maybe we'll be spared this terrible emptiness again if they could be stopped from getting on a bike in the first place.
Last week, one scribe opined that the real tragedy of Bourdon's death was that it was preventable; that if these young players were made to understand the dangers of motorcycles, they'd never ride one.
If only it was that easy.
The reaction to Bourdon's death, of course, is an attempt to make sense out of an event which seems so utterly pointless. A 21-year-old kid who's on the cusp of great things is riding his new motorcycle on a lonely stretch of highway when he crashes into a tractor-trailer.
How does that happen? How is that part of anyone's plan?
It's not, of course, but if we can learn something from it, that means he hasn't died in vain.
Like we said, the sentiment is understandable.
It's also pretty useless.
Bourdon's death has taught us that young men tend to be risk-takers and, sometimes, don't make the most prudent choices when it comes to their well-being. And this is a life lesson? This is a great truth? Anyone who's raised a kid knows the only thing you can do is provide them with the best information possible and, once they're out the door, it's out of your hands.
You hope, you pray, that they make the right choices, that somehow they steer clear of danger. But you can no more control it than you can control the weather. There is an element of random chance to these events, an element that defies all our best efforts. Brutal things happen in life. You can't predict these things and you can't prepare for them.
If you've lived to a certain age, you know this. On Thursday, something brutal happened to Luc Bourdon and his family. There is no lesson. There is only sadness.
The more germane question, in fact, is why did his death touch so many people? Why are so many sharing the grief with Shippagan and Luc's family?
True, Bourdon was a high-level prospect with the Canucks, but he'd played all of 29 games here over two seasons, which meant he wasn't exactly a fixture in Vancouver or the NHL. Despite that, the overwhelming sense of loss has been palpable, not only here, but all over Canada.
The answer seems to be tied up in the mythology of this country and that most Canadian of stories, the young kid from the small town who, through dedication and perserverance, beats the odds and makes it to the NHL. I've never been to Shippagan, N.B., but I've been to Renfrew, Ont., and Wainwright, Alta., and Sorel, Que., and Humboldt, Sask., and a lot more towns like them. You probably have, too, and you know the local hockey star is a minor deity in those places.
Bourdon was that guy in Shippagan. Actually, he was about 100 times that guy because he was the only one from Shippagan to make it to the show, and all of Canada knows what that means.
After all we've heard the past couple of days, the best part about Luc is that he was worthy of that adoration. He took his role in the community seriously.
You never recover from a loss like that. You just try to move on, remembering Bourdon as he was -- someone who represented the best in all of us and our country. More
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