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'JUST GETTING STARTED'

Lucic amped after first day on the ice as a Flame: 'The opportunity (to win a Stanley Cup) here, with this team, these guys - is what continues to drive me.'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Whenever Milan Lucic close his eyes and imagines a fresh take on a lifelong, once-accomplished dream, six-and-a-half-year-old Valentina, four-year-old Nikolina, and 10-month-old Milan Jr. are always, but always, on hand to savour, to share.

The sights. The sounds. The joy.

The gamut.

"I've been chasing that 2011 feeling for the last eight years," the big man is saying, Day 1 of his Flames' stay officially stamped with the on-ice opening of training camp.

"Once you experience it, you can't wait to feel it again.

"Got close again in '13 and fell two wins short. Since then … it's been a tough road getting back to the top of the mountain.

"That's what continues to motivate me - reliving that feeling, that moment.

"Back in 2011, I was 23 years old. My birthday actually fell in the middle of that series. At the time, I wasn't married yet. My wife (Brittany) was my girlfriend.

"Now I have my own family and I want to be able to share that moment with them. When you're a husband and a dad, you want to be able to share everything with your family.

"I watch Cup celebrations now, and I think back to the night we did it (with Boston), and the guys who have their kids on the ice and get the chance to celebrate with them, taking pictures, all of that, are especially lucky.

"You're there together.

"I honestly can't think anything could be as special as that.

"So the chance to do it again, with them - and I certainly see the opportunity for that chance here, with this team, these guys - is what continues to drive me."

 

 

The familiar, power-laden No. 17 in white Friday morning on Scotiabank Saddledome ice, all 6-foot-3 and 230-lbs. of him, operated primarily on a line alongside another broth of a lad, PTO conscript Devante Smith-Pelly, who tips the Toledos at 6-foot and 220. Acting as fulcrum for the two burly wingers, 5-foot-11, 180-pound jack-of-all-trades Derek Ryan.

"Yeah," laughed Ryan. "I felt, how shall we say?, very … insulated. Safe. Even in practice.

"I know we've talked about it a ton, but Looch can put some of our smaller, skilled (guys) at ease, make them more comfortable. Give them the feeling of having a bit more free reign, if you will.

"More than that, though, being out there with him today, he was flying. He can make plays, get to the net.

"I don't know him well yet but you already feel he's going to add an awesome element of leadership.

"The same could be said for Garnet Hathaway last year. He had the ability to throw his body around, be physical. Obviously Looch, he's a bigger body, one of the toughest guys in the league."

Derek Ryan mentioned 'comfort'.

Well, Lucic does provide that.

Feels it, too.

Even so early in a new relationship.

"The transition's been good, easy," he says. "Same province, of course. Being only three hours down the road from Edmonton now we already know what to expect living in Alberta. We're lucky as a family. We found a good house in a really nice neighbourhood. The kids are enjoying it. Weather's been good the last few weeks. (Thursday) was awesome.

"I'm sure if you looked at my Twitter account you saw we went out to Lake Louise the one day, wanted to do the canoe ride. Went to Johnston Canyon, Canmore. Did all the fun stuff with the kids before everything got started here.

"It's also nice having family an hour-flight away in Vancouver. Especially for my wife. Her parents help out a lot. It's important for my family to get acclimated and adjusted in their lives here, the same way it is for me as a player.

"That's an important part of the game. We all want things running smoothly at home."

 

 

 

The same, naturally, goes for an unfamiliar workplace.

"It's such a good feeling to be wanted, to be welcomed,'' Lucic, now 31 and entering his 13th NHL campaign for a fourth franchise, emphasizes.

"What excited me most after agreeing to the trade is the feedback I got immediately from the players here. The next day. That weekend. Ever since.

"When you're wanted by your peers, you kinda hold your head up a bit higher. You stand up just that little bit straighter.

"I know I do.

"Even after all these years.

"It's the same type of feeling.

"Doesn't matter if you're 19 or 55. Doesn't matter what kind of work you're in.

"One thing you never want to lose is that little-kid-inside-you feeling, playing hockey on the street, in the backyard or in the alley. I think it's still there, in me, definitely: 100 per cent.

"It'd be easy for people to look at me and say: 'Oh, he's won a Cup. Made a lot of money.' All this type of stuff. But to be honest, you know, I've been chasing that feeling I keep mentioning for eight years now.

"That's why I'm here.

"First day in the books.

"Just getting started."

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