VANCOUVER, B.C. – Alex Burrows and his teammates on the Vancouver Canucks are just four wins away from hoisting the franchise's first Stanley Cup. The only thing that could have made it all a touch sweeter for Burrows is if his good friend, and teammate, Luc Bourdon was around to share the experiences with him.
Bourdon, a first-round pick by the Canucks, died tragically on May 29, 2008, in a motorcycle accident near his hometown of Shippagan, N.B. He was just 21 years old.
As the three-year anniversary of the accident approaches, Burrows has not forgotten his friend.
"He means a lot to me. We're still really close to his girlfriend (Charlene) and we still talk to her a lot," Burrows said. "I think about him before every national anthem, during the national anthem – I always think about him a little bit, and wish that he'd be here with us, wish that he could compete with us."
Burrows first played with Bourdon during the 2006-07 season when the young defenseman dressed for nine games with the Canucks.
"I'm sure a lot of guys still think about him a lot," Burrows continued. "Obviously a lot of us played with him as teammates, but more importantly, we were really close friends. We spent a lot of quality time with him.
"We still think about him, and I'm sure he's looking down at us."
Bourdon played 36 career NHL games, all with Vancouver, scoring a pair of goals to go along with a plus-6 rating and 24 penalty minutes.
Center Alexandre Bolduc and goaltender Cory Schneider were teammates of Bourdon's during the 2007-08 season with Vancouver's AHL affiliate in Manitoba and remember him fondly.
"In Manitoba we hung out quite a bit and it was devastating news," Bolduc said. "I'll always remember his sense of humor and how good of a guy he was. It was sad because he was such a nice guy – it's still pretty sad to this day."
Added Schneider: "I can't believe it's been three years now. It's pretty sad to think what could've been happening today."
The trio of current Canucks immediately pointed to Bourdon's sense of humor and his abilities with video games when asked to reflect on 10th overall selection from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
"He made a lot of jokes and we liked to team up and get on some guys too – that was probably the best part," Burrows recalled. "He was a big Guitar Hero player, he could crank that at 99 percent on expert pretty easily with his eyes closed."
Added Bolduc: "We had Guitar Hero at my place (in Manitoba), me and Schneider, so he would come over and play that, honestly for three to four hours, on expert level.
"I've never seen a guy so good at Guitar Hero to be honest and we would just sit there and watch him in amazement. We would just stand up and be like 'All right Luc, I think we're going to go to bed,' and he'd still stay up for another hour or two playing."
Burrows and Bolduc remember exactly where they were that spring day in 2008 when they heard the news about Bourdon's fatal accident.
"I was driving back from the gym and actually Roberto (Luongo) called me, told me the terrible news," Burrows said. "I was so, so sad. A really dark day. Obviously that's the last thing you want to hear when you pick up the phone.
"He was such a close friend, great friend and great teammate of mine and obviously it's still tough to talk about it."
Bolduc was in a similar position, in the middle of an off-season workout when he first heard.
"I remember looking at TSN, and I kind of caught the end, on the bottom of the ticker saying 'Reported accident, Luc Bourdon was on a motorcycle,'" recalled Bolduc. "I asked my buddy, 'Did you just see that or did I read something wrong?' I was like 'It couldn't be.'
"I kept trying to look at the ticker, never came up again and I got back into my car after the workout – probably had five or six voicemails and two text messages. Then I kind of clicked in something really bad happened."
Bourdon, who played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Val-d'Or, Moncton and Cape Breton, won gold with Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver and the 2007 tournament in Sweden.
Bourdon's agent, Kent Hughes, first met him as a 15-year-old as he was preparing for the QMJHL draft, and recalls how good a kid he was.
"He was very hard working, determined kid," Hughes recalled Friday. "He did a lot of things kind of behind the scenes that I don't think people knew about.
"One of the stories they were telling over the weekend when they had his funeral was that he had anonymously set up a scholarship fund to provide equipment and a variety of other things for people who needed it in New Brunswick, but never put his name to it."
On Saturday Bourdon will be among six people inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame. In Hughes' mind there's no question about the impact Bourdon would be having on the current Canucks' blue line.
"I'm sure he would've been a huge part of that blue line right now," he said. "What can you say, it's a terrible tragedy."
Bourdon is still a big part of Burrows' life today -- often when the 30-year-old puts the puck in the net, his goal celebration is a tribute to his friend.
"Luc was the first one to ever do the bow and arrow," he said. "I used to see him do it in junior a lot, see him do it in Manitoba and I think he did it once in Tampa Bay when he scored one of his goals.
"Obviously it's to remember that he's still around, he's still part of this organization and he's a big part of my play. He's a great motivation for me."
Bourdon's girlfriend Charlene was also a part of Burrows, and wife Nancy's, big day last July when the two got married.
"(She) was one of the bridesmaids, she did a speech, which was really emotional for me, and people attending the wedding," Burrows said. "We still talk to her a lot. I know my wife, they talk and text every day so they're pretty close."