Vancouver Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon, who helped Canada win gold medals at the 2006 and 2007 world junior hockey championships, died in a motorcycle accident on Thursday. He was 21.
Police in New Brunswick said Bourdon was driving his motorcycle that collided with a transport truck on a road between Lameque and Shippagan, his hometown.
At a Friday news conference, RCMP Inspector Roch Fortin said Bourdon only got his motorcycle licence two weeks ago.
Kent Hughes — Bourdon's agent — told Hockey Night in Canada Radio on Thursday that his client purchased the motorcycle two days before the accident.
Fortin added the wind was also gusting heavily at the time of the accident and might have played a role in the crash.
Bourdon, a solid two-way blue-liner, was the Canucks' first-round pick (10th overall) at the 2005 NHL entry draft.
"He was a competitor. He had a 'you can't stop me-type attitude,'" Hughes told HNIC Radio host Jeff Marek and co-host Neil Smith on Thursday.
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said the organization was "deeply saddened" by the loss and extended his sympathies Bourdon's family.
"The reaction any time that events like this occur is obviously shock and sadness for a promising career that was just about to begin in the National Hockey League, and for Luc's family," Gillis said in conference call on Thursday. "It's a challenging period of time for everybody."
Bourdon split time this season between the Canucks and their American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba, scoring six goals and 14 points in 41 games with the Manitoba Moose.
"He was showing all the signs that he was going to get there and it wasn't a race to get there," Canucks assistant general manager Steve Tambellini said. "We were proud of his progression."
He finished the 2007-08 NHL season with two goals and a plus-7 rating in 27 games for the Canucks, who missed the playoffs.
"He was a young defenceman adjusting to the elements of being an NHL defenceman as opposed to a junior defenceman," Hughes told HNIC Radio. "I think this year, at some point, Luc had really come to grasp with the fact he had to take it day by day and week by week and control what he could and really simplify his game.
"It seems to me he was becoming more and more comfortable with himself as a hockey player."
The six-foot-two, 210-pounder scored his first NHL goal last Nov. 16, a power-play marker with two minutes left in regulation of a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in Vancouver.
Jim Hughson, who calls Vancouver games for HNIC, described the rookie Bourdon as a quiet man who kept to himself.
"He was a young guy who really wanted to be in the NHL badly," Hughson told CBCSports.ca. "His way of going about it was to be here, to take everything in, to watch and listen and not be heard."
An excellent skater with good offensive instincts, Bourdon was instrumental in Canada's gold-medal win at the 2007 world juniors in Leksand, Sweden, posting four points in six games.
He collected six points in as many games at the 2006 tournament in Vancouver, which Canada won over Russia.
Hughson said Bourdon showed the hockey world at the junior tourney what potential he had as a regular in the NHL.
"Great shot, he could hit hard, he got the puck up ice. He had all the tools you would want in a defenceman," said Hughson, adding Bourdon was used primarily as an injury fill-in this season at the NHL level.
"In Vancouver, he was asked to play a very simple game. We really didn't see the star that people thought he was going to be because he was just asked to chip [the puck] in and chip out. They [coaches] kept him away from tough matchups.
"But they had high hopes for him. The reason they picked him [so high in the draft] is [because] he was going to be a guy who could lug the puck up the ice, quarterback a power play … a bit like a young Ed Jovanovski."
Player's star shone in QMJHL
Bourdon starred in junior with the Val d'Or Foreurs, Moncton Wildcats and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He shone in his second junior season with Val d'Or in 2004-05 (32 points in 70 games) and nearly cracked the Canucks' roster out of training camp in September 2005.
Bourdon returned to the Foreurs and amassed 20 points in 20 games before being traded midseason to Moncton.
The physical rearguard signed a three-year contract with the Canucks on May 4, 2006, and began the 2006-07 campaign in Vancouver before he returned to the Wildcats after a nine-game stint.
Bourdon later joined the Canadian national junior team and shortly after his return was dealt to Cape Breton, where he notched six points in 23 games before adding 13 points in 16 playoff outings.
Bourdon earned a promotion to the AHL upon Cape Breton's elimination from the playoffs and never looked back.
"He was one of those kids who had so much talent," Moose play-by-play announcer Brian Munns told CBC News. "It's sad to see such a great kid and a good hockey player this young pass away."