By Mike Cardillo
Updated: 03/25/2009 12:03:47 AM EDT
Midway through high school, Jacques Lamoureux was on his way to becoming part of a sad statistic.Less than a decade later, the Air Force sophomore forward’s life story reads like a Disney movie.
The 22-year-old Grand Forks, N.D., native has gone from sleeping with his father’s shotgun in his bed and contemplating suicide to leading the nation with 32 goals and becoming a Hobey Baker Award finalist.
Lamoureux will be on display at the NCAA’s East Regional when No. 4 Air Force plays No. 1 Michigan on Friday at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.”I’m thankful for people supporting me during the whole thing, it’s been a long process for my family,”
Lamoureux said by phone Tuesday morning before the Falcons flew east. “I wouldn’t be where I was if not for friends and family.
“Lamoureux was born into a hockey family — his father, Pierre, helped North Dakota win two NCAA titles as a goalie — and his five siblings all play the game.
Twin sisters Monique and Jocelyne were part of the 2009 women’s Frozen Four for Minnesota, and younger brother Mario plays for North Dakota, which is also participating in the NCAA tournament.
Everything was going according to plan for Jacques Lamoureux until his sophomore year at Bismarck High, when he began feeling overwhelmed even though his team had won the state hockey championship.”I’ve always had a perfectionist attitude,” he said. “At the time, I put lot of pressure on myself to play juniors.
I put a lot of pressure on myself at a young age, which probably isn’t healthy. I also broke up with my girlfriend. The combination of not letting myself enjoy my teenage years and the breakup were too much to handle.
“Things deteriorated to the point where he was sleeping with his father’s shotgun in his bed. Finally, he asked his mother, Linda, to take him to the hospital, where he met with psychiatrists and was prescribed antidepressant medication.“My emotional state was pretty bad, the medicine helped me mellow out,
” Lamoureux said. “The side effects were weight gain and kind of left me feeling like a zombie. I didn’t feel up, I didn’t feel down. I wanted to be able to feel happy or sad.”Turning it around Lamoureux appeared back on the right track until November 2003 when what he calls the “parking garage incident” took place.
He was home for Thanksgiving from junior hockey, but instead of thoughts of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, Lamoureux climbed to the sixth floor of the structure and went to the ledge — inches away from becoming one of the roughly 5,000 annual teenage suicides in America.
He stepped back and began the process of getting his life back.“After the parking garage incident, I decided I wasn’t going to take the medicine,” he said. “It was a mental problem. I knew it was tough, but I’d do what I had to.
“Lamoureux said his decision to stay alive boiled down to his family. When he was young, a cousin had committed suicide, and he didn’t want to leave that pain on his family, who’d been supportive.”I couldn’t leave my family wishing they could have done more,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave my family because of all the love and support they’d given.
“Lamoureux said the biggest hurdle he needed to make was tearing down the emotional wall he’d built up and allowing others to know exactly how he was feeling inside. This process evolved during his senior year when he wrote a paper about his depression. He eventually elaborated on the paper and shared it with numerous classmates.
Since then he’s spoken openly and often about his ordeal in order to help others in similar situations and let them know they aren’t alone.”There is a stigma that people will look down on you, but so many people have gone through what I have and nobody knows about it,
” Lamoureux said. “When I (opened up) first in high school, I was gratified by the results. It became public, I’d be approached about the story and people would ask questions.”I figured it’s something that the people closest to me know about. I value what they think. They’re supportive of me talking about it. Even if it’s just one person that read about it and thinks, ‘I’m feeling the same way and can open up how I’m feeling and talk about it,’ it’s worth it.
“Of course, there was still the matter of hockey for Lamoureux.He was interested in playing at Air Force, but the Department of Defense’s Medical Examination Review Board denied his initial application in 2006. Undeterred, he spent a season at Northern Michigan before reapplying to Air Force, this time getting accepted.
After sitting out a season, he’s thrived during his first season with the Falcons, leading them to the Atlantic Hockey Association’s regular-season and postseason titles, along with a third consecutive NCAA berth.”The strength of his game is goal-scoring and that’s a rarity,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “On our team, he’s played in a role where he maximizes those skills. When he gets the puck inside the circles, he’s very dangerous.”So dangerous that Lamoureux’s 32 goals — including a nation-high 15 on the power play — are seven better than the nearest competition.
The Hobey Baker nomination is icing on the cake, though a bit of a surprise.”You set goals to help the team win,” he said. “In my eyes, it’s a team award.”Lamoureux knows that even with his on-ice success, the well-publicized story of his triumph over depression goes with him wherever he goes. Instead of a burden, he looks at his duty.When Air Force returned to Colorado Spring, Colo., after winning the Atlantic Hockey tournament in Rochester, N.Y.,
Lamoureux said that a Master Sergeant on the base thanked him since his daughter had exhibited similar traits to Lamoureux during his darkest days, and reading a story about him helped her cope.”Things like that are the reason why I do it. Other people know they’re not the only one going through it and it’s okay to ask and open up,” Lamoureux said. “I feel blessed I’ve had the courage to talk about it. Part of my duty is to talk and share about it.”