VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Alex Burrows took a day off from hockey yesterday, but not from his thoughts as he gets ready to play in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time.
While the excitement is building for the Canucks forward, Burrows’s mind focused on his newborn daughter and the memory of close friend and former teammate Luc Bourdon, who died exactly three years earlier in a motorcycle accident.
Both lives have impacted Burrows and both will continue to play a big role Wednesday when the Canucks host the Bruins in Game 1.
Burrows’s daughter was born just over a month ago, one day after Burrows’s season-saving overtime goal in Game 7 of the first-round series against defending champion Chicago.
Bourdon is never far from the forward’s memory. Bourdon’s girlfriend, Charlene Ward, delivered a message that had his teammates fighting back tears during a ceremony that honored Bourdon’s life before the 2008-09 season opener.
Her words remain with Burrows.
“I remember Charlene saying this day should be a celebration of Luc’s life and not his death, so I think of all the good times we spent together,’’ Burrows said. “It makes you realize how special life is.
“There are bigger things than hockey, even in the Stanley Cup finals. It puts everything back in perspective, how lucky we are to be here and healthy and going after one of my dreams.’’
There is little doubt that Bourdon, who was just 21 when his motorcycle collided with a semitrailer, would be part of this playoff run. The talented two-way defenseman was chosen No. 10 overall in the 2005 draft and almost made the team that fall when he was only 18. Bourdon played nine games the following season, and had two goals in 27 games in 2007-08.
Burrows believes Bourdon is here, watching over the Canucks as they try to win their first Stanley Cup. He thinks about Bourdon during the national anthem before every game, and has talked about the role his friend has played in his rise from a never-drafted afterthought to a top-line scorer in the NHL.
And now newborn Victoria is having an impact as Burrows continues to mature from a once-notorious agitator into a player with more playoff goals (seven) than penalty minutes (six).
Burrows says Bourdon has been with him throughout.
“He’s going to help me out and help the team out. It’s tough to explain,’’ he said. “Sometimes you feel you’ve got a second gear, and maybe that’s it.’’
Burrows even wondered if Bourdon played a role in some fortunate bounces for the Canucks in the playoffs, such as when Alex Edler’s dump-in caromed off a stanchion in double overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against San Jose. The puck found its way to the stick of Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who sent a soft, skipping one-timer into the net.
Another odd bounce came when Burrows knocked down a clearing pass, put his head down, and slapped the rolling puck over the shoulder of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
“The bow and arrow is for that,’’ Burrows said.
The bow and arrow was a favorite celebration of Bourdon, and Burrows continued the tradition after his biggest goals. He was already reaching for an imaginary arrow when teammates mobbed him after the Chicago goal.
“I wanted to get past the first guy and maybe shoot a couple into the upper deck, but I got clotheslined by the guys and couldn’t,’’ Burrows said. “Hopefully I have a few for the finals.’’