Marc Bureau's father died a week before Marc's first professional hockey training camp. While in Calgary's camp in the fall of 1987, Bureau worried about his mother, who was alone for the first time as Marc and his brother had just moved away from home to start new jobs. Having lived all his life in Quebec, Marc spoke little English at that first camp.
"They would explain a drill, and sometimes you would have to go first and didn't understand half of what they had said," Bureau recalls. "I was a little bit shy."It was a tough way to start, and it showed in his play last season with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. He sat out some games and was used as a defensive specialist in others, even though he'd been a scorer who'd never played defensively in juniors.
This season started as a bust, too, as Bureau had only three points through the first 15 games. "Maybe partly because of last year," Bureau says.
"Then I talked to myself. I said, `You did it in juniors, I don't know why I can't do it here,' and I started to play good. I got confidence, and Baxie (Coach Paul Baxter) gave me confidence with two good linemates - Peter Lappin and Theoren Fleury.
"I scored one goal one game, two goals next game. I started on the power play. Then I got my big night, five goals, and after that, it never came like it was last year. I kept the same tempo all the time," Bureau says.
Going into Friday night's Game 2 of the Turner Cup championship series against the regular-season-champion Lumberjacks in Muskegon, Bureau is tied for first place in the league in playoff goals scored with seven.
Lappin has seven, and so do 'Jacks Scott Gruhl and Dave Michayluk. But Lappin was 1988 playoff MVP, Michayluk is the 1988-89 regular-season MVP and Gruhl is the IHL career scoring leader among players who are still active.
Bureau is the center for the checking line.
Martin Simard and Stu Grimson are his wingers.
Bureau has 11 playoff points, tied for second on the team behind Lappin's 14. He finished the regular season with 28 goals, 64 points. He set franchise records for five goals and eight points in one game on Dec. 13. He had scoring streaks of nine and eight games.
"Last year, there were a lot of things to adjust to," Bureau says.
He was close to his father, sad that he couldn't see him play professionally. "He was proud because I signed a contract. That's a good thing that he brought with him - he never saw me play, but he knew I was going to," Bureau says.
At his first Calgary training camp, some players laughed at his attempts at English - "I was a little bit shocked," he says - but now he knows they're laughing with him. "You learn with your mistakes," he says.
The agonizingly slow start made Bureau a more complete player. "In junior, I was just an offensive player, but I learned to play defensively a lot last year, and it made me better. I learned to be physical, too," he says.
That has become his game.
He's no fighter, but he's an irritant - hitting, picking, poking. "I like to tick a guy off," he says. "Baxie likes that. He told me I was the worst to play against. That's good," says Bureau.
"I don't smile when I play," he adds. "I'm going to smile after the game and during practice, but when I'm on the ice, I just concentrate.
"Maybe that's why I got an ulcer," he laughs.
He's not supposed to eat certain foods, like chocolate, but he had chocolate cake for lunch and a double-chocolate dessert for dinner Wednesday. Maybe it'll make him a double threat.
He's goaled in his last three games, and, he says, "I don't think any line likes to play against our line. We hit hard."
That's how they score. Bureau's goal Tuesday was a direct result of a Grimson hit on the boards that left the puck free at the faceoff circle. Playing with Simard and Grimson, who aren't puckhandlers, Bureau gets the best of both games. He can hold onto the puck as long as he likes, or he can just dump the puck in and bash people around the corners on the forecheck.
"You do all those things together, you can be a good player," Bureau says.