Life can wear on you. Between the adversity you have faced in your life and the day to day trials and tribulations there are times when you are just tired of things being difficult. It seems without fail that it's that during these times that you run into some individuals who test your will. Bad experiences, dealing with losers, depressing news in the media, it becomes quite easy to focus on the negatives. Well this post serves as a personal reminder and a challenge to those who actually read this blog to focus on the positive. Sound cheesy?! Well it kind of is, but I am believer that we are surrounded by greatness and by focusing and acknowledging examples of greatness we gravitate towards greatness ourselves. I am not immune to feeling down and going through rough times. And usually when I think that things can't get any worse, they do. I also can't believe that, without fail, things always get better and I look back at the bad times and realize that they weren't that bad. Or if they were, they served as a painful yet valuable experience that only make the good times all the better while helping me to grow as a person. I typically find that the good things in my life aren't things at all, they are people. The greatness constants in the life o' Badski are always shining examples of great human beings. My wife, family and friends are typically the things that keep my spirits high and my ability to recover from the lows strong. I started writing this post a few days ago and since then I was forwarded the following article from my old coach. I don't know Jacques Lamoureux because he came in the year after I graduated but I know quite well the company that he runs with. I was lucky enough to play four seasons with people of this caliber and have no doubt that I would feel the same way about him as I do all the other guys I played with at the Academy. This story illustrates the kind of greatness that I am referring to. The great human feel good factor of overcoming adversity and growing as a person. As bad as your situation is there is always someone who has it worse than you do. Be grateful for what you have, take the hand you are dealt and keep moving forward. Hopefully this story inspires you as it did me and serves as a reminder that the eternal optimist always wins, always succeeds, and has a hell of a lot more fun doing it than the next guy.
History of depression initially keeps the North Dakota-native out of the Air Force Academy.
Jacques Lamoureux has a knack for making his shots count.
A sophomore at the Air Force Academy and a center on the Falcons' hockey team, Lamoureux is college hockey's national leader in goals with 29, and power play goals with 14. He also leads the nation with eight game-winning goals, making him the hero of one-third of the Falcons' wins this season.
"He has that dirty little habit of finding the back of the net," said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. "He's got that knack. He kind of has a sixth sense of where pucks are going to go. He's got great hands, he's aggressive around the net, and when he gets his chance, he puts it away."
Still, of all the shots in Lamoureux's life, the one that looms largest is the one he never took.
A goaltender on two NCAA championship teams at the University of North Dakota and a junior hockey teammate of Mark Messier, Pierre Lamoureux was all too happy to put hockey sticks in the hands of his six children. However, there was a time when Jacques Lamoureux took his father's shotgun to bed instead.
"It was kind of a question, one hour to the next," Lamoureux said, "if I was actually going to commit suicide."
In a family filled with hockey talent, 15-year-old Jacques had junior hockey on his mind as a high school sophomore, but after his high school team won the state championship, his drive to perform took an unhealthy turn, and his life off the ice didn't help, either.
"I had a breakup with my girlfriend at the time," Lamoureux said. "That (relationship) was kind of the last thing holding me together, and then when that happened, everything fell apart so fast. I lost control of my emotions. I wasn't able to control and understand what I was going through."
Lamoureux went to therapy, but was unable to shake his emotional turmoil, complicated by the feeling that, as a hockey player from a good family, he wasn't supposed to struggle with depression or be vulnerable. Eventually, Jacques got his mom, Linda, to take him to the emergency room.
"One night," Lamoureux said, "I was laying in bed, and my dad's gun was right next to me, and my little brother Mario was sleeping next to me, and I went to my mom about 11, 12 at night and said, 'Mom, I need to go to the hospital.' I told her what I was doing, and she immediately took me to the hospital."
Shortly thereafter, visits to a psychiatrist led to prescriptions for anti-depressants and anxiety medication.
"Those medicines helped to mellow me out during that really bad time," Lamoureux said. "There was about a month, month and a half when I was at my worst. It was so bad that I would have had to have somebody holding my hand all the time to keep me from possibly doing something to myself, and those medicines helped me to mellow out and keep me from having those low, low feelings."
Through it all, Lamoureux did make it to the junior ranks, heading off with younger brother Pierre-Paul to play in the North American Hockey League with the Bismarck Bobcats. Still, Lamoureux struggled on and off the ice, partly due to the same medicines that had kept him together at his lowest point, but were now weighing him down, literally and figuratively.
"From the meds, I had gained quite a bit of weight," Lamoureux said. "I was 210 pounds, which was a lot at that point. I wasn't very fast in the first place, so that didn't help the situation."
In late November, 2003, Jacques and Pierre-Paul headed home from Bismarck for Thanksgiving. Rather than enjoying the holiday at home with family, though, Jacques found himself alone at a parking garage.
Six stories above the ground, with a handwritten note on the dashboard of his car, Jacques Lamoureux was mere inches from ending his life.
"I was standing at the edge of the parking ramp," Lamoureux said, "pondering whether I should jump off or not."
Thankfully, the family that had stood by Jacques Lamoureux's side throughout his struggles helped him once more - even though they didn't know it at the time.
"I knew I couldn't feel any worse than I was," Lamoureux said. "I was feeling so down, but our family had had an incident with one of my cousins, who committed suicide when I was really young, and I couldn't leave my family with that kind of hurt.
"Up to that point, they had worked so hard to try to help me. My parents bent over backwards; whatever kind of help they thought I needed. They had worked so hard for me, and in return, I don't think I felt I had done my own part to accept what they were trying to do for me. I hadn't really tried to work through the problems. I said, 'I can't do that to them. I'm going to stop feeling this way.'
"I opened my mind to the thought of getting better: knowing that it was going to be tough but doing it anyway."
Lamoureux came down from the ledge, left the note in the glove box, and went home to join his siblings for pond hockey. Later that night, determined to beat his depression naturally, he threw away most of his medication.
The decision is a controversial one - a sudden stop when taking antidepressants can lead to antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, or even a major relapse - but Lamoureux was determined to truly feel better, and not just numb, or in his words, "like a zombie."
"I kept just enough," Lamoureux said. "Every day, (Pierre-Paul) would watch me take my medicine, and I'd kinda do it, but when he turned around, I just spit it out. Everyone thought I was still taking my medicine, and then after a month, I told I everyone I wasn't taking it anymore."
Instead of meeting an untimely end, Jacques Lamoureux had found a new beginning.
As Lamoureux turned the tide in his battle with depression, his play on the ice improved as well. After recording just six points in 36 games in 2003-04, Lamoureux went off for 42 points in 50 games the following season and 70 points the season after that. He also began to attract interest from Division I college hockey programs, including Army and Air Force.
Even in wartime, knowing what a service commitment could mean, Lamoureux was attracted to the two military academies, particularly Air Force, and he committed to join the Falcons for the 2006-07 season.
"A lot of players, we have to go through a long educational process," Serratore said. "When they see everything that the Academy has to
offer, then they buy into it. Jacques wanted the military right from the get-go. It's not often that we get a kid who's a good player and a good student who embraces the military portion of it."
Before he could become a cadet, though, he had to be cleared by the Academy's doctors. Serratore knew what Lamoureux had gone through - by this point, he was giving talks about his experience for suicide prevention groups - but didn't think that getting into the Academy would be a problem. Unfortunately, he was wrong: the Department of Defense's Medical Examination Review Board denied Lamoureux's application, and the Academy doctors agreed.
"It was a well-publicized thing," Serratore said of Lamoureux's history with depression. "There was quite a time period since the last time that he had suffered from depression. We were disappointed, because Jacques was a good player and a good student who wanted the Academy."
For the time being, at least, Jacques Lamoureux's Air Force dreams had been grounded, but his response showed just how far he'd come.
"We were right in the middle of playoffs," Lamoureux said, "so I didn't have time to sit and whine about it. I talked to my parents about it, and I just said, 'I guess that's the way it's going to be. There's nothing I can do about it."
When he found out that he couldn't bring Lamoureux to Colorado Springs, Serratore made a few calls on his behalf. One of those calls landed Lamoureux at Northern Michigan University, playing for former Rangers assistant Walt Kyle.
"I had a blast," Lamoureux said. "I loved going to school out there. I had fun out there. Made a lot of good friendships."
Lamoureux played 16 games for the Wildcats as a freshman, recording one goal and one assist in a conference filled with big-name programs like Michigan, Notre Dame and that season's national champion, Michigan State. Off the ice, Lamoureux had no problems in Marquette, earning a 3.9 grade-point average. Still, he knew where he really wanted to be, and watching Air Force give the WCHA champions from Minnesota the fight of their lives in the NCAA tournament only served to drive the point home.
"I watched that game," Lamoureux said. "I said, 'I should be playing right now.'"
With his heart still set on Air Force, Lamoureux went to Kyle's office to ask for permission to transfer. Then, with Kyle's blessing, he called Serratore to inquire about re-applying. The Falcons coach, caught by surprise, made no promises.
"He asked me if I thought it would be a waste of time to reapply," Serratore said. "I told him, 'I don't know if it's going to do any good, Jacques, but I guess it wouldn't hurt.'"
Lamoureux was optimistic as he reapplied.
"The first time around," Lamoureux said, "I was three years removed from what happened. I'd been living away from home, paying some of my own bills, and playing a high level of hockey, and they didn't think I was OK. Maybe they'll think I'm OK now, after having all that and going to college and playing a Division I sport and getting a 3.9 GPA."
Sure enough, Lamoureux passed muster with the Academy doctors on his second go-round, and before long, he was packing his bags for Colorado Springs.
NCAA regulations would force him to sit out the 2007-08 season, but that was of little concern.
Jacques Lamoureux was finally getting what he wanted.
This fall, as Lamoureux restarted his college hockey career, both he and Air Force came out soaring. Lamoureux had 11 goals and eight assists in his first eight games as a Falcon, and the team won its first 13 games - including a win over crosstown rival and perennial power Colorado College - before falling to WCHA frontrunner Denver.
"I didn't think that I would start out the year the way I did," Lamoureux said. "I think a lot of that, I can attribute to my teammates. I get to play with Josh Frider and Brent Olson. They do some work and get me the puck, and I've just got to shoot it in the net."
While both Lamoureux and the Falcons have gone through struggles since that hot start - Air Force wound up in a dogfight with Rochester Institute of Technology atop the Atlantic Hockey standings - the Falcons claimed a share of the regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament, and Lamoureux finished the season strong. Lamoureux finished the regular season third in the nation in scoring with 1.35 PPG, and has reasserted himself in the race for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, which his brother, Jean-Philippe, was a finalist for last year as a senior goaltender at North Dakota.
Given that the award's namesake, the first great American hockey player, was an Army Air Service pilot in World War I, there would be a special connection inherent in bringing the trophy back to Colorado Springs.
"I think that does add a little more mystique to it," Lamoureux said, "an Air Force guy being considered for the Hobey Baker, but I think it comes down to who's the best player in the country. There's a lot of good players out there."
Off the ice, Lamoureux has been nominated for the BNY Mellon Hockey Humanitarian Award. At the Academy, he's made the superintendent's list for excellence in academics, military and athletics, and completed the parachute and Global Engagement programs this past summer.
He keeps tabs on his siblings' hockey pursuits as well: Jean-Philippe is enjoying a strong rookie season with the St. Louis Blues' ECHL affiliate in Anchorage, Mario is following in his footsteps as a Fighting Sioux freshman, Pierre-Paul is at the University of Manitoba after a junior career with the Red Deer Rebels (where he played for Devils coach Brent Sutter), and sisters Monique and Jocelyne are leading scorers at the University of Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers are preparing for a run at the women's national championship.
"I'm just happy to be able to see all my siblings doing well," Lamoureux said, "and achieving the goals they set out for themselves and be able to be a part of all that."
At the moment, though, in a family whose hockey pedigree could make the Sutters sit up and take notice, Jacques Lamoureux is taking center stage, for all the right reasons.
"I think at the beginning of the year," Lamoureux said, "if you said, 'At the end of the regular season, you're going to have this many points, this many goals,' I would have gotten a laugh and said, 'There's no way.'"
Six years after he nearly jumped to his death, there's no telling how far Jacques Lamoureux will fly.