AJHL: Player Profile – Rene Bourque

By Marc Ciampa

Rene Bourque has remained a constant bright spot during what is becoming a disappointing season for the St. Albert Saints.

This past September Bourque, only 17 years of age, had to make the difficult decision between going the Major Junior route-he was very impressive while trying out for the Saskatoon Blades-or the US College Hockey route. Bourque chose the latter and so far has not regretted the decision.

“It was a tough decision but school-wise and for hockey I wanted to come here. I think there would be less pressure here and I would have a lot more fun,” Bourque told Jeff Hansen of the St. Albert Gazette.

Bourque is a visionary on the ice. He seems to have a knack for seeing everything that happens around him. His hockey sense is incredible. Because he has decided to go the college route, he will not be opting into the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. If he continues with his progress, however, he could easily go in the first round in 2001 pending a solid freshman year.

“Rene is one of those players that comes around every once in a while. He has good size and great skating ability and is good with the puck. I’d compare him to Jamie Lundmark,” said Saints’ general manager Marcel Viveiros. High praise considering that some say Lundmark-a former St. Albert Saint-just might end up being the best player from the 1999 Entry Draft in the long run.

Bourque’s goals are modest, however, given the high expectations that surround him.

“I’m hoping to stay injury free and have a good season and, hopefully, get a scholarship to the United States if I can do good in both school and hockey,” he stated earlier this year.

The native of Lac La Biche, Alberta, is solid at both ends of the ice and has been used by the Saints in both key offensive and defensive situations this season. Even though last year’s AJHL finalists sit tied for dead last in the league at 4-17, Bourque has done his job-and done it well.

Bourque’s commitment to both school and hockey this season has been undying. He spent the entire summer training for the upcoming season, and the results have paid off. “I was on a training program and I put on some weight and more muscle,” he said, “My shot is a lot harder now and I’m a lot faster skater, too.”

Bourque has been a bit of a late bloomer in the hockey sense though that could be attributed to him being born in December 1981, and almost a year behind some of his peers. At age 13 he was playing at the Bantam A level for his hometown of Lac La Biche, then moved on to Bantam AA in Fort McMurray. He was set back that year when he broke his arm, and the following year of Midget AA with Bonnyville he broke his leg. That season he still managed 29 points in 20 games, however, and gained admittance to the famed Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan-whose alumni includes such NHL greats as Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind’Amour.

Bourque really came of age with the Notre Dame AAA Midget club, netting 22 goals and 42 points in 42 games. “The coaching was pretty good there. We practiced a lot. We were on the ice every day, even if we had a game we would be on the ice in the morning. I liked it. The funnest thing in my life so far was going to Notre Dame.”

Bourque joined the Saints this season along with fellow Notre Dame Hounds teammate Kevin Gardner. The two represented the school last season at the Saskatchewan AAA Midget all-star game, and there’s a good chance they could be together once again representing the Saints at the AJHL all-star classic.

Gardner, himself a top prospect and very smart player, had high praise for his teammate. “Rene’s the type of player that can go out and get you a goal. He’s a good playmaker. He’s a good scorer. He’s got a good shot and works hard. He brings a lot of good things to the team.”