Milan Lucic, the Vancouver native, 2011 Stanley Cup winner and former Memorial Cup champion with the local Giants of the Western Hockey League, didn’t get any or much interest from his hometown club this summer as it relates to free agency.
Not a direction the Canucks wanted to head, which is obviously within their right and discretion, while Lucic may have had the Canucks as one his top choices.
“They would have been, had there been more of an opportunity there,” Lucic told Vancouver Hockey Insider last week. “But it just felt right going back to Boston and I’m looking forward to that.”
Not so long ago Lucic would have been the type of player every team wanted around for intimidation, protection and enforcement. He’s a breed of NHL’er going extinct and a presence that Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin apparently didn’t see as part of his club’s make-up. Completely understandable in this day and age, especially considering we’re talking about a very large, 35-year-old, bottom-six winger who’s not adding to your team’s speed.
“The opportunity wasn’t really there this summer,” Lucic mentioned again.
A Different Homecoming
Instead, Lucic returns to where his NHL career began, telling us he’s very excited about heading back to the Boston Bruins, the club that drafted him in the 2nd-round, 50th-overall, in 2006. Even with the retirements of his former Cup winning teammates Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci this off season, “Looch” sees emotion and a historical connection in the return.
“Me and “Kraych” were rookies together, even though he had played six games the year before,” Lucic said. “We kind of had to find our way together and all that kind of stuff. “Bergie” was more established at that point in his career. Our rookie year Bergie went through a tough go, missing 72 games with a concussion (after a hit from behind by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Randy Jones).
Lucic considers both centres worthy of Hockey Hall of Fame induction.
“All in all, I think we were all a part of a certain core group of guys that came in with (head coach) Claude (Julien) and (general manager) Peter (Chiarelli), and that ended four years later with hoisting the Stanley Cup here in Vancouver, so that’s a bond that’s gonna be special with all those guys, and when you start with a core like that, it’s pretty cool to grow.”
Lucic will once again be a fan favourite in Boston. Patrons there love his brand of player regardless of the era. They still recall fond memories of him pounding opponents into submission after dropping the mitts or delivering thunderous hits.
After eight seasons in Beantown, Lucic spent the next eight out west. The Los Angeles Kings for one, the Edmonton Oilers for three and then the Calgary Flames for four more. It’s very likely that Alberta is as far west as his NHL career will take him in Canada.
And while donning a Canucks sweater might be a childhood dream that slips by, Lucic ultimately won’t mind a bit. The hockey memories in his hometown buildings have piled up.
“A lot of good things have happened here for me in Vancouver,” Lucic points out, “Memorial Cup, draft, all that type of stuff, so just a lot of great memories and hopefully we’ll create more.”
Last week’s appearance in Richmond came in support of a short, informal camp put together by hometown kid and former Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher to raise money for Diabetes Canada. Stetcher lost his father to complications from the disease. Lucic was more than happy to come home to participate.
“I feel good, this time of year you’re always kind of anxious to get it going again,” Lucic said. “It’s that time of year when you’re kind of sick of working out, but you’re excited to get things going, and I’m really excited about it all.”
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