|The shock of the sudden death of 21-year-old Vancouver Canucks defenseman Luc Bourdon swept through the draft combine on Thursday.
Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was talking with associates in the lobby of the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel early Thursday afternoon while checking messages on his Blackberry when his head snapped back as if he'd been punched.
Without a word, Regier turned his Blackberry toward a reporter and showed him his latest message: "Montreal station reporting Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon killed in motorcycle crash."
There are 107 top prospects here at the 2008 NHL Draft Combine, interviewing and testing in hopes they'll be selected in the early rounds of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, June 20-21 at Scotiabank Place. It was only three years ago that Bourdon was one of those players, an impressive junior defenceman who was taken by the Vancouver Canucks with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 entry draft.
Bourdon returned to the Val D'Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League that fall and later was traded to the Moncton Hawks. Moncton then dealt him to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles the next year. He played on Canada's gold-medal winning World Junior Championship teams in 2006 and 2007, making the all-tournament team in 2006. He was promoted to the Canucks for nine games in 2007.
He became a full-time professional this year and played 41 games for the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, where he had six goals and eight assists. Bourdon was called up to the Canucks several times this season, playing 27 NHL games, where he registered two goals and a plus-7 rating. Bourdon played in the NHL for most of November, February and March. The Canucks returned him to Manitoba for the Calder Cup playoffs.
Police said Bourdon was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle on a road near his home in Shippagan in northern New Brunswick around 12:30 P.M. He reportedly struck a tractor-trailer and was killed instantly.
"This is an incredibly sad and tragic event for Luc, his family and our family here at the Canucks," said Canucks vice president and assistant general manager Steve Tambellini, attending the combine. "All we know at this point is that it was a motorcycle accident and we are awaiting the details.
"Luc was an extremely passionate young man who was just on the cusp of being rewarded for all the hard work that he put in. He was just starting to show his character in the NHL. This is a very, very sad day."
Tambellini said it was very difficult "when you get news like that about a family member, and he's one of our family members within our hockey team. I can't imagine how his family feels at this point.”
Tambellini said Bourdon's death is a reminder "that there are more important things than hockey. We are more concerned with Luc's family because obviously this is a horrific time for them."
- John McGourty Stamkos an Internet sensation –
Sarnia’s Steven Stamkos not is only a hot topic of discussion at the combine, but his nifty shootout goal captured on YouTube during the 2007 Ontario Hockey League’s skills competition also has made him the talk of the Internet world.
His spectacular behind-the-legs breakaway goal has been viewed by more than 100,000 people. There’s also another video of him performing an awe-inspiring lacrosse move, where the puck attaches to his stick like Velcro, enabling him to wield the disk in any direction. Tack on the trusty spin-o-rama and “flick and bat” for good measure, and Stamkos is a bona fide fan favourite in the making.
“When I first did it, I didn’t think it would get up on YouTube, but it’s always cool to shoot a video and have friends tell you to go check it out because that makes it even more special,’’ Stamkos said. “The behind-my-legs move in the skills competition kind of made up for when I fell during the fastest-skater competition in 2006. I had to do something so the fans wouldn’t remember me as the guy who fell. Luckily, I pulled off the behind-the-legs move, and at the autograph session afterwards, everyone was talking about the shot and not about me falling two years ago, so I guess I accomplished what I set out to do.’’
- Mike G. Morreale Q & A –
There was no let-up to the number of interviews for each of the 107 prospects at the combine on Thursday. This process will continue, in fact, around the gruelling medical and fitness testing beginning Friday.
For some, the questioning is unbearable.
“Oh, man, I was just asked to name the longest river in Canada,’’ said Stouffville, Ont. native Corey Trivino, Central Scouting’s 49th-rated North American skater. “I thought it was the St. Lawrence, but it’s the Mackenzie River. Otherwise, I think I did all right.’’
Boston University’s Colin Wilson, rated 10th among North Americans, admitted the toughest question to answer involves his future plans.
“They want to know what I intend on doing next year, whether I would sign with the team or go back to college,’’ Wilson said. “It’s a bit of a hard decision and they put me on the spot, but I’m used to it now. I feel whatever is best for my development is the path I’ll take. If a team feels I’ll develop best in college, then I’ll head back to Boston University. If it’s in my best interest to go pro, I’m open to that as well.’’
Jacob Markstrom, the No. 1-rated European goalie according to Central Scouting, had to dig deep into the memory bank when he was put on the spot.
“They asked me that if I could meet with someone, dead or alive, who would that be?’’ the Swedish goalie told NHL.com. “I had no answer at first, but then I said I had an idea – Tommy Soderstrom, who played for Philadelphia and the Islanders.’’
Soderstrom was discovered to have a weak heart, a condition involving a nerve of the heart muscle, and underwent surgery four times to cure the ailment. Following his fourth surgery in 1993, he was back on the ice. In October of that same year, he left the ice because of chronic pain and endured a fifth surgical procedure. Three weeks later, he returned to the net.
“I admired his courage,’’ Markstrom said.
- Mike G. Morreale
Two for Atlanta –
|Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell has the |
luxury of getting two first-round players in the upcoming draft.
Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell, who values the interviewing process “a tad more’’ than the fitness results at the combine, will have two first-round picks at the NHL entry draft in Ottawa.
The club has the third overall choice, plus Pittsburgh’s first-round pick (either No. 29 or 30). Needless to say, Waddell and his staff have been working around the clock in making the necessary preparations.
“We have two picks, so we feel that with the third pick, we can get a player that can be inserted into the lineup right away and that’s important for our team,’’ Waddell told NHL.com. “That pick will most likely be a young defenceman, which will be vital for our franchise.’’
Waddell, who has been at the helm of the Thrashers for 10 seasons, enjoys speaking with the prospects invited to the combine.
“What we’re really looking for at the combine are red flags,’’ he said. “We know these players very well on the ice and want to get to know them off the ice. They’re all well-schooled in what to say, so I usually try and keep it very loose. In fact, my first question to them is, ‘What’s your wife’s name?’ I’ll usually get some weird looks, but it’s just to put them at ease. Every team handles the combine differently, but we try and talk openly and want the guys to be themselves.’’
Waddell will never forget one interview he did a few years ago.
“I asked him if he liked to watch hockey games and he said, ‘No, not really.’ I then asked him why and he said, ‘Well, I really don’t like hockey.’ Then he tried to correct himself by saying, ‘But I like it only when I’m playing.’ Those things really stick with you, so you try and ask normal questions so this way you can get an honest response.’’
-Mike G. Morreale Talking smack –
It isn’t the odd couple, but it’s the next closest thing.
On the third floor here at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel, Boston University’s Colin Wilson, the top-rated collegiate player at the combine, and Boston College-bound Jimmy Hayes share a room.
Boston College recently captured the NCAA men’s hockey championship with a 4-1 victory over Notre Dame in the Final on April 12.
“We’re good buddies and actually played on a line together on the (U.S.) national team, so it’ll be a great rivalry if we do get to play against each other,’’ Wilson said. “I know I’ve got to earn my stripes since I haven’t suited up for BC yet, but at least I still have a little bragging rights after the team won the national title.’’
Wilson, who became the fifth player in Boston University history to be named Hockey East Rookie of the Year after posting 35 points in 37 games with the Terriers in 2007-08, will allow Hayes his moment in the sun.
“He’s talking smack, but I have to stay away since they did win the championship,’’ Wilson said. “I’ll have to keep my words to myself and do my talking on the ice. But Jimmy and I are really good friends, so it’s nice that we’re here at the combine together.’’
At Boston College, Hayes will be part of a strong freshmen class that includes Tommy Cross, a second-round pick of the Boston Bruins last year.
- Mike G. Morreale
Author: NHL.com Staff