10th overall pick. 36 NHL games. 2 career points, all goals.
Statistics don’t tell some stories.
Luc Bourdon was more than what’s written in NHL game logs. In 2008, the Vancouver Canucks selected him in the top 10, hoping to develop the physical, offensively gifted two-way defenceman to his utmost potential.
He hailed from the small Francophone town of Shippagan, New Brunswick. It’s a town with a population of 2,580. Only one other player, Yanick Degrace, had ever been selected in the NHL draft. Only Bourdon would play an NHL game.
At the age of 9, Bourdon was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, one which required the use of a wheelchair. The young boy from Shippagan overcame the odds, finding his feet both on the ice and in his hometown. A straight-A student, Bourdon would spend his summers crab-fishing on his uncle’s boat.
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In the 2003-04 season, a 16-year-old Bourdon joined the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL. He appeared in 64 contests, recording 8 points in his first season. The next, Bourdon posted 32 points in 70 matches, earning an appearance in the CHL top prospects game.
His rise continued on the international stage, where most Canadians would remember his contributions. Bourdon finished as the leading scorer amongst defencemen as Canada would claim gold in the 2006 World Juniors. The next year, he would score the game-tying goal in the third period of a 2–1 shootout win over the United States in the semi-final, helping Canada to a repeat gold.
But surely, an NHL player that only recorded 36 games would be an afterthought. Not important enough to warrant any sort of attention, a trivia question at most.
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Heck, who would even remember him? Right, [redacted]?
Sure, Bourdon didn’t cement himself in the Canucks’ lineup. He was also only 21 years old. He had a career, a whole life in front of him, one that unfortunately ended far too soon. But even in his lifetime, it’s a legacy worth remembering.
Bourdon’s story represents the mythos of the small-town Canadian kid making it to the big time. In a town the size of a Vancouver high school, he was able to be drafted in the top 10 of the NHL draft, don the maple leaf, and win on the international stage. For young players across the country, it’s an inspirational tale that still had many more chapters to write.
His hometown remembers not only Bourdon bringing home the gold medal but his contributions to the community. After signing his first professional deal, Bourdon anonymously donated $10,000 to families in his local minor hockey association that couldn’t afford equipment.
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He was a leader, on and off the ice.
Sometimes you can do everything right, make the right choices, and go through the proper motions. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can prepare for. Bourdon’s tragic death shook his family, Shippagan, the entire Canucks organization. The Manitoba Moose would hold a moment of silence prior to their Calder Cup Finals matchup against the Chicago Wolves. The Canucks would wear the initials “LB” throughout the 2008-09 season.
Given time, Bourdon absolutely would have featured in more NHL games. To this day, Canuck fans wonder what their blueline would’ve looked like in 2011 with him in the lineup. But that isn’t the point of all this. Bourdon was so much more than just a hockey player.
He represented the best that this country had to offer, a young man that defied the odds to become a professional hockey player. Bourdon never forgot his roots and showed maturity beyond his years. It was a display of drive and determination that was an inspiration to many.
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Bourdon wore number 28 in his NHL debut, one that surely many Shippagans tuned in to. Just a number, but one that represented the realization of a lifetime’s work and dreams.
No Canuck has ever worn the number since.
So as his former player-agent Kent Hughes, now GM of the Montreal Canadiens is about to step to the podium to make the first pick of the 2022 NHL draft, as his good friend Kris Letang signs a new deal to make him a lifetime Penguin, it’s perhaps no better time to reflect on Luc Bourdon.
10th overall pick. 36 NHL games. 2 career points, all goals.
Bourdon’s impact far exceeded those numbers and letters. As a player, and as a man.
So yes, everyone remembers Luc Bourdon.