Who says you can't go home again?
Just this past summer Brad Lukowich proved that theory wrong when he unexpectedly signed a free-agent deal to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team he helped win the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Lukowich had no idea his former team was interested in his services until one day in July when his agent called to go over the clubs who had phoned in offers.
"It's really exciting for our whole family to be back in Tampa," Lukowich said. "But when it came time to start negotiating for a new contract, to be honest with you, we were actually quite surprised that Tampa did call. But when they did, it's funny how it happened.
"I was sitting outside talking on the phone to my agent. We had an offer in from a team, so I was going to write down everything about it on a piece of paper. At that point I hadn't put anything down on paper yet. Then he asked me if I was sitting down. When I told him yes, he was like; ‘Well, this is an offer from Tampa.’"
Lukowich nearly fell off his chair because his wife, Cara, and he never wanted to leave Tampa Bay, but the NHL lockout changed everything for them.
"We were sad to leave in the first place, but after the lockout it was like we were trying just to snatch up a job anywhere we could. We were very fortunate. We got to go away and have some great experiences and meet a lot of new people in the New York/New Jersey area. But when he told us Tampa was offering a one-year deal, we were like; 'Wow!' But in all honesty, we were kind of looking for something a little longer. Sure enough when we called back, they came back with an offer right away for three years. I was like; “That's the proof right there that they want you back.’ It was the term we were looking for, the money was fantastic, it's where we wanted to be, but more importantly for me, it was coming back to a place that is dedicated to winning and being competitive."
It was also coming back to the place where he had the most productive season of his career. In 2003-04, Lukowich set career highs with five goals, 19 points and a plus-29 rating in 79 games. The solid defender also contributed during the memorable Cup run that year, registering two points in 18 pressure-packed games, while averaging almost 16 minutes of action a night. Even though he had already won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999, Lukowich was on a mission to bring Tampa its first NHL championship.
"Winning in Dallas it was kind of like an outside view of it, where I joined the team late. I wasn't there all year and I didn't get to really understand when they talk about the grind," Lukowich said. "Being in Tampa Bay that whole year was the grind. It's the hardest training camp there is on the planet and then there's no letup during the regular season. You realize that when you get there. People who have never been through it, will never understand it. Unless you go through training camp to that very last day, you will never understand what they mean by ‘the grind.’ Winning in Tampa, other than having my child, was above and beyond anything you can imagine."
|Brad Lukowich hopes to win a second Stanley Cup during his second go around in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning also are delighted to have Lukowich back.
"Brad Lukowich is a warrior," GM Jay Feaster said. "He plays the game with his heart on his sleeve and he does whatever it takes to win. He knows our system, he knows our core personnel, he knows how we do things in Tampa and what we expect from our players, and he is a winner. He is also a very good teammate and a popular player in the locker room. He has personality and spirit and old-school flair about him. We like everything about him and we are thrilled to welcome him back to our hockey team."
And make no mistake, Lukowich is glad to be back.
"They're right up front with you and they tell you exactly how it is," he said. "So you know your role. Coming back here was easy. When I wrote the name of the team that gave me that offer – like I said, I hadn't put any names on that paper – so when I put Tampa Bay on top, my wife was looking at it and her eyes welled up. I knew I had my answer to that offer right there. She really loved Tampa. She made some great friends who she had still stayed in contact with. For me, a lot of the core guys have been brought back after going other places as well and the room feels really good. All the guys are comfortable with each other. It feels like old times already. It's gonna be an exciting year."
And a successful one, if Lukowich has anything to say about it.
"When I look around the room I know this team is prepared. We definitely have a goal in mind. To win our division is our goal right now and we're not looking past that, but we also know the opportunity that that will bring."
Singing a new tune -- The NHL lockout gave Lukowich a chance to get involved in the music industry.
"During the lockout I got involved with doing my own thing,” he said. “I was bored and I decided to get back into the music world. I've been fortunate enough to have met and befriend a lot of people in the music industry. The Nickelback guys have been just a godsend to me. It's amazing to see how well they've done. But just getting the opportunity to hang out with guys like that from being a hockey player gave me an opportunity during the lockout to get involved on the management side. I started helping in developing young bands that just didn't have the money or resources to do it."
Lukowich and his friend, Jason Sakowski, started a management company called Lock-Out Entertainment. They have a band out of Dallas called Neverset, who will start a national tour in October. Neverset, which will open for Sevendust, has an album out right now called Behind Every Door, which is doing very well. Their CD is available on iTunes, and you can checkout the band and Lukowich's company on MySpace.com at: http://www.myspace.com/lockoutentertainment