Be forewarned, should you still be brave and stubborn enough to think you can alchemize a dynasty: You're playing with fire. All that scheduling and striving, all that excellence and expectation rubbing under one roof is wonderful as long as all your foals are ascending Mount Olympus at roughly the same rate, radiating all their angst and energy outward. But if just one of them....
This episode of The Lucky Lamoureuxes is nothing like The Happy Hollisters or Little House on the Prairie. It comes from the blind side because that's exactly how it came at Mr. and Mrs. Lamoureux.
Jacques was the child least like his father, the most sensitive and self-critical, and the one most like him, so organized, precise and driven. So, of course, he was the one who rebelled, the disrupter whom Dad yanked by the ear out of Holy Family Catholic Church on Sundays. His rebellion never spilled into hockey, but his need to be perfect did. It could devour him, transform him from the hat-tricking hero of title games to the white-knuckled ghost skating back and forth, strangling the abracadabra right out of his stick.
All his near-perfect report cards, his girl-melting good looks, the years of leaving friends behind after school to lift weights, making high school varsity by eighth grade and finishing top five in the state in scoring as a sophomore as his team took the state title ... they weren't enough. Two goals should've been three. Three should've been four. Phil had already moved to Lincoln, Neb., to play in the highest-level juniors in the U.S.—why not Jacques? He turned anxious and surly in 10th grade, broke up with his girlfriend, lost 15 pounds in two weeks. A teenager, a broken heart, his parents kept thinking. It'll pass.
He bolted from classrooms sobbing. He entered the garage one day, found a piece of scrap metal and burned a crucifix on his shoulder and two crossed hockey sticks on his chest. The creeds of his childhood—Never quit! and Didn't hurt! and Head up, mouth shut—weren't working, and the only way he could make it through each day was to identify something near at hand that he could use to kill himself.
One Sunday night in April 2003 Jacques was curled up on his mattress in the basement. Mario lay on one side of him. Dad's shotgun on the other. Jacques crept up the stairs, slipped into his parents' bedroom and woke his mother. If he didn't get help, he told her, something bad was going to happen.
She took him to an emergency room and then to a psychiatrist, who started him on anxiety medication and antidepressants. Two weeks later, when Jacques broke down at school again, his parents picked him up. Instead of going home, he was astonished to find they were taking him to a hospital, into a green room with a white-tiled floor ... and he couldn't leave. He wept and begged his parents not to go. He pressed his eye to the slit in the door, watching them leave. It was the first time he'd seen tears stream from his father's eyes, and to this day Pierre can't speak about what he or his son went through.
The family's nectar had somehow turned to poison, the paradox only sharpened when Phil's snap-dragon goaltending took the Lincoln Stars to the Clark Cup, the United States Hockey League championship, that same week. Phil drove home from Lincoln anticipating a conqueror's welcome—unaware of Jacques's plight because his parents hadn't wanted to unsettle him before the title game—but instead arrived at an empty house and learned that his entire family was at a psychiatric ward with his brother.
For three hours a day, in his green patient's garments, Jacques worked out to stay ready for the big tournament in two weeks: push-ups, sit-ups, wall-sits, crunches, lunges, squats, knuckle push-ups, sprints in the hallway. He was discharged after eight days and eventually accepted an offer to play in a lower-level junior league the following autumn in Bismarck. Pierre-Paul, a year younger, made the Bismarck Bobcats as well, so Mom and Dad—worried that Jacques would feel worse if he stayed home and abandoned his hockey quest, and thankful that his brother could keep an eye on him—swallowed hard as the boys moved in with a family four hours' drive away and began the 10th and 11th grades in a new high school.
Back home for Thanksgiving Day that year, 2003, Jacques headed out the door to see his ex-girlfriend before his family sat down to dinner. He left her house—he still can't remember what happened there—and headed to the parking garage next to his old high school. He was 40 pounds overweight from the medication, his hockey dreams slipping away. He composed a suicide note, left it on the dashboard of the car and climbed onto the ledge of a ramp on the fifth floor. A mix of rain and wet snow pelted his face. Memories and images tumbled through his mind.