Thursday, May 29, 2008

Luc Bourdon killed in motorcycle crash

Another tragedy has struck a promising hockey prospect with a great future in front of him. Not even four months after the death of Calgary Flames' prospect Mickey Renaud, Canucks' defenceman Luc Bourdon dies in a motorcycle crash in New Brunswick. According to the Globe and Mail's story, the police have said that a motorcycle hit a transport truck head-on. They didn't release the victim's name, but Bourdon's sister confirmed it was him.

This is terribly sad. Bourdon, a first-round draft pick (10th overall) back in 2005, had so much potential, and really seemed to be entering a phase of his career where he could be an everyday NHL defenceman. In fact, if he hadn't been in the Canucks' organization which boasts one of the deepest defence corps in the league, he probably would have played a full season at the NHL level last year. It's a big loss for the team, as he was probably their most promising minor-leaguer last year. More importantly, though, it's a reminder of our own mortality and a loss of a talented young man to the world. Bourdon was only 21, one year older than me.

Obviously, this is a different situation from Renaud's death, where exactly what happened still doesn't seem to be clear. This is perhaps even more sad, because it easily could have been avoided if Bourdon wasn't out riding his motorcycle, or if any number of things had gone differently on the road. As such, it's probably going to lead to a flood of renewed calls to ban athletes from riding motorcycles (similar to those heard after Ben Roethlisberger's crash). However, I'm not sure if that's warranted. Sure, riding motorcycles can be dangerous, but shaking hands, ironing shirts and looking both ways can also cause injuries. As much as most general managers would probably like to, you can't encase your athletes in protective glass bubbles. They're young, they're rich, and of course they're going to live on the edge and make some bad choices, but that's their right.

Motorcycles are like many other things in life: used properly, they can be a great deal of fun, but there's always the potential for disaster. An older, early-twenties acquaintance of mine was killed in a motorcycle crash when I was in high school, and of course it was a tragedy. It didn't inspire me to become an anti-motorcycle crusader, though: in fact, I hope to own my own motorcycle some day, and I still do after this crash. In some ways, it's like flying: far less people are killed in plane crashes than car crashes every year, but many people are more worried about disaster in the air because it's big news whenever a plane goes down, but auto accidents have become so commonplace that they're barely reported any more. Similarly, motorcycle crashes are big news, particularly when they involve famous athletes, but the dangers of more mundane travel options like cars are overlooked. I'm not arguing that motorcycles are inherently safe: clearly, there's a lot of potential for things to go wrong, and you don't have much of anything in the way of protection. The point is just that we shouldn't go overboard and start proposing bans on all motorcycles for athletes or the general public because of a tragedy like this.

Related: Neate, Alanah, James and Sean all have good posts up on this.

Update: 4:41 P.M. ET: Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province has more details.

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