It was a seemingly insignificant moment during last year's Bruins Development Camp.
Driving on the Charles River in a Duck Boat, our pilot turned and asked the throng of young hockey players if anyone would like to drive the World War II era fighting vehicle. Now, you may not know this, but off the ice, hockey players can be a pretty quiet herd -- afraid to, pardon the pun, rock the boat. And generally, it takes a strong personality to break away and do anything new.
Only one hand went up -- Milan Lucic
Since then I have watched a very determined young man grow into his role as the Black & Gold's power forward. Through the fights and the checks, and the broken noses, and after stepping over the wake off opposing players he has left behind, Lucic has never lost that take charge kind of attitude that he displayed on the boat last summer.
In fact, it has gotten stronger by the day.
Yesterday, we found out that the fans of New England have seen that attitude, have appreciated it, and have adopted the Vancouverite as their own.
And that love is reciprocated.
Lucic, the latest winner of NESN's 7th Player Award, chosen by the fans as the player who has performed above and beyond expectations, calmly took the mike to address his new family. He thanked everyone and said that Boston fans are the "greatest sports fans in the world."
After all of that, I couldn't help thinking that the guy was just born to be a Bruin.
"I think [the Bruins] set that certain identity with the players they've had in the organization," said the rookie to the reporters who waited for him after the game -- many of whom had smiles on their faces while listening to Milan. "Back in the day I can name lots of them who played here: Cam [Neely], Ray [Bourque], and Terry O'Reilly. Look up at the rafters and you can see all the guys who've had their numbers retired. It's all guys who have played hardnosed hockey in your face.
"It's a very successful style and I think it's an entertaining style," he said.
There is no doubt that Lucic has a certain flair for the dramatic. A big goal here or there, landing on the boards nose first (only to return shortly after) and several knockout blows have put him on the New England sports map. Even off the ice, the Milan autograph is a sought after commodity as was a chance to challenge him at guitar hero at the Wives Carnival.
And Milan loves it all.
He has often said that he hopes that he can continue to help bring the Bruins fans to the building and knows by winning the B's will augment their already strong following.
"You know, as a player you always want to be a popular player," said Lucic. "You want to be a fan favorite. [But, before tonight] to be perfectly honest, it never really crossed my mind.
"I just went out there and tried to play my game, play hard everyday, and tried to contribute."
But as he continued to speak, it became clear that Milan had a bit of a revelation.
"I guess you could say that my style of hockey sort of fits the bill for a Boston Bruin," he said, finally. "So it's probably the best place I could've come out of all thirty teams."
New England couldn't agree more -- keep it up, kid.