Nearly five years later, Lucic has come to mean much more to the historic Boston franchise than a typical second round draft pick.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 powerhouse forward having the best statistical season of his young career, Milan Lucic
has become one of the faces of the Bruins franchise.
No matter where you walk in Boston, whether it be Causeway Street, Beacon Hill or the Back Bay, you’re sure to spot at #17 jersey or a shirt reading “Milan Lucic
: Fight Club.”
The 22-year-old has appeared on the cover of various magazines and his stall has become a popular stop for the media, as he’s sure to give an intelligent, well thought out answer to whatever question is thrown his way.
But Lucic wasn’t born a star hockey player. He has worked hard to get to where he finds himself today.Being a Giant
The Vancouver, BC native began his hockey career with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. At just 16-years-old, Lucic made his major junior debut with his hometown hockey club in the 2004-05 season when he played one regular season and two playoff games, and picked up his first two career penalty minutes.
In the next two seasons with the Giants, Lucic would collect 296 penalty minutes and became known as a tough guy and a fighter.
However, Lucic also had a 39-48-87 scoring line in those two seasons and led the Giants to a WHL Championship in the 2005-06 season and a Memorial Cup in 2007.
“Obviously winning a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup in those years it’s been great and it’s been a great experience for all the players who have been a part of this and for myself,” Lucic said.
“Just the fans, they always keep coming back, it’s such a great junior experience to get to play in an arena like this and in front of fans who are as passionate about the game as Giants fans are.”
Perhaps what Lucic has become best known for during his time as a Giant is ‘The Shift’; a shift he skated in the first period of the Memorial Cup in which Milan put all of his 220 pounds into three hits and ended it with a fight.
“I guess the timing of it was perfect. I was in the right place at the right time, coming in and making three big hits like that and obviously there were 16,000 fans here who were all geared up and wanted to see us win,” Lucic said of his most famous minute of ice time.
“It seems like after that the momentum shifted into our favor and we didn’t look back after that.”
But it wasn’t Lucic’s first shift either. He worked closely with the Giants management and coaching staff to develop into they type of player he’s become and is still becoming.
“They were great. Scott Bonner, he was the guy that brought me in as the GM. And obviously working with Don Hay and Craig Bonner, who was assistant coach at the time. And the trainer Ian Gallagher, I’ve been working out with him for the last six years. You know they helped me take that next step,” Lucic said of his mentors.
“I don’t think they knew too much about me when they first brought me here, but they were willing to work with me. Especially Don, he always finds a way to get the best out of his players and he’s a guy that teaches you that work ethic can take you a long way.
“He’s got that saying ‘will over skill’ and if you’ve got that will and you’re willing to put the time in and the work in, it will get you to where you want to go. I’ve always taken that to heart and I think that’s why they’ve been a huge part of my development and I think Scott got me to where I am now.”Becoming a Bruin
|Lucic fought often in his rookie season. |
When Milan Lucic
was drafted in 2006, the Bruins franchise was in a rebuilding mode. As the B’s second round choice, behind first-rounder Phil Kessel, Lucic was still a little unpolished and his skating left some things to be desired.
But both the Bruins and Lucic felt it was the perfect fit.
“For myself, looking at the situations, Boston was kind of in a redeveloping stage and they needed some jam in their line-up and it was perfect for me. That’s why I couldn’t be happier that I ended up with the Boston Bruins,” Lucic said of being passed up by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round for now-Islanders stand-out Michael Grabner.
“Since I got with them in the 07-08 season everything has just kind of gone up and forward from there.”
Up and forward is an understatement.
In his first two seasons with Boston, Lucic combined for a 25-44-69 regular-season scoring line and 225 penalty minutes, with 23 fighting majors.
After last season was shortened by an ankle injury that forced him out of the Winter Classic and a possible berth on the Canadian Olympic team, Lucic has rebounded this season with 26-16-42 totals through just 57 games.
“He’s been good, obviously he’s had some goals scored. He’s obviously gaining his confidence and the one thing that makes him a good player is when he comes out and plays the way he can,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said.
Although Lucic has cut down on his PIM total (he has 83 thus far this season) and only has three fights on the books, he still plays the physical style game highlighted in ‘The Shift.’
“The physical part of his game has to be there for him to be effective and it’s got to be there on a consistent basis,” Julien said. “Whenever it hasn’t been there, he hasn’t had the success that he should.
“So he’s understanding that more and more and with experience and with being able to mature through this league, they become more consistent players and I think he’s done a good job of that.”
Pleased with the way this season has been going so far, Lucic credits last year’s adversity to helping him grow as a player and a person.
“It was definitely a learning curve last year. I think you take being healthy for granted until you go through injuries like I did last year. It was tough, it seemed like everything that could go wrong last year went wrong,” he said.
“And you know I think that’s what gave me that extra motivation to regain my reputation going into this year and I worked that extra, maybe worked that extra hard.”
Coach Julien sees that hard work in Lucic so far this season.
“Anytime you go through some tough times in the end it’s going to make you a better, either a better person or a better player. I think he had a tough year last year because of injuries and it took him a long time to find his game,” Julien said.
“But the ankle injury really set him back and that’s something that nagged him for most of the year. So we weren’t able to see him maybe at 100 percent. But this year he’s come back and with no issues and is having a great year.”
“I’m having fun again,” Lucic added. “Last year it was kind of depressing, it wasn’t fun going to the rink and all that type of stuff. That was my main focus this summer in the off season is to get that fun back in the game and I think that’s why my game has been able to excel.”Coming Home...
|Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo, right, keeps the puck from crossing the goal line as Lucic watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
As the Bruins prepare to take on the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night after three days of practice in the Giants' Pacific Coliseum, Lucic has more than a big game to be excited for in the Bruins extended stay in Vancouver.
“It was especially nice today being able to practice here in the Coliseum,” Lucic said after yesterday’s team practice. “Obviously growing up down the street, it’s something that’s where I always wanted to play because as a kid the Canucks were always playing here.”
Lucic has been looking forward to this trip since the schedule came out.
“It was real exciting. Last time we came here we were in and out so I didn’t really get to see my friends and family too much,” he said.
“Obviously Boston is far away from Vancouver, people don’t realize how far away it is until they travel from Boston to Vancouver.
“You know I don’t get to see them that much during the season and I don’t really get to play in front of them. I think it was 200 games ago when we played here so it’s definitely exciting to come back and play here.”
In addition to Saturday night’s game, where Lucic is expecting over 20 family and friends to be in attendance, he will also be honored by the Vancouver Giants on Friday night.
Before the Giants take on the Chilliwack Bruins on Milan Lucic
Night, the Bruins forward will be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honour and take part in the ceremonial puck drop.
“It’s an honor to be honored by the Giants and I’m excited for Friday night,” Lucic said of the upcoming festivities.
“I think some guys on the [Bruins] might be coming on Friday with me so that will be pretty cool.”
The first 500 fans in attendance of the game will receive a Milan Lucic
“The nose could use a little work,” Lucic said of his pint-size statue. “Definitely you can tell by the side profile there it doesn’t really have the bump that I’m kind of famous for. The old Serbian nose I get from my family.”
“But it’s pretty cool, I know a lot of guys from the organization have been asking for them so hopefully they can hook me up with a case or two.”
Despite all the pomp and circumstance surround Lucic’s homecoming he’s still looking for the same thing as every game: a Bruins win.
“Hopefully we can get the…win on Saturday night.” ---Hannah Becker