It’s never easy being the coach’s son. Sharks prospect forward Tony Lucia knows that firsthand.
For the past four seasons, Lucia has played for the University of Minnesota under his father, Head Coach Don Lucia. Don has guided the Golden Gophers to two NCAA Championships and more than 500 victories in 11 seasons as head coach. He ranks fourth in career winning percentage and sixth in career victories among active NCAA Division I coaches.
Even though Tony’s father is one of the top coaches in all of college hockey, he’s still making it on his own merit.
“When I played for him, I had to work a little bit harder for everything I got,” said Lucia following his morning session at Sharks Development Camp. “I think it has taught me that nothing’s going to be given to you.”
That work ethic made Lucia a standout at the University of Minnesota. In 160 games, he registered 82 points (34 goals and 48 assists). During his senior season in 2010, Lucia served as a team captain and finished tied for first on the Golden Gophers in points (28), tied for second in assists (17) and goals (11) and led the team in shots (104). Following the season, he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and received the Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.
“I’m a hard-nosed player that brings his lunch pail to the rink every night and tries to give a good effort,” Lucia said when asked to describe his style of play. “I’m not going to be a flashy player, but I like to play a tough game whistle-to-whistle.”
According to Tony’s dad, Don, his son has always been a good leader with his teammates and passionate about hockey. In an exclusive interview with SJSHARKS.com, Don described Tony as a “gritty, smart, two-way player” who’s “always been willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Don went on to describe the summer of 2003, when Tony, at the age of 16, would visit his father at the University of Minnesota and workout with the school’s strength and conditioning coach. This was always optional for Tony --- never forced on him by his Dad. But it was at this time that Don really saw his son’s drive towards success.
“He’s always enjoyed it and loved the game,” said Lucia when asked why he believed his son has excelled in hockey. “He knew that if he was going to be successful, he was going to have to work hard and he was always willing to work hard. I never forced him; he had to want to do it.”
Two summers later Lucia was drafted by the Sharks in the sixth round (193rd overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Eight days after completing his collegiate career in 2010, he signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks and joined the Worcester Sharks, San Jose’s American Hockey League team. He played four games in Worcester and registered one goal.
Now the 22-year-old sits in front of his locker at Sharks Ice at San Jose, attending his second development camp in as many years. He’s surrounded by 38 other prospects with the same goal: making the NHL.
“My first camp was two summers ago and that was a real experience --- stepping into a locker room where NHL greats have been practicing. It was a little overwhelming,” Lucia said. “But this year, I have a bit more experience under my belt. Since I was able to go out to Worcester, I feel a little bit more comfortable knowing a few more guys and that’s definitely going to help me this fall.”
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound native of Wayzata, Minn. has realistic goals about the upcoming season and he knows a ticket on the Worcester-San Jose shuttle is his best shot for a spot on the Sharks bench. Since the Sharks and Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson are known for rewarding their AHL players, Lucia’s efforts in camp and in Worcester could afford him an opportunity in San Jose.
“My goals coming into this year are just to have a good year in Worcester and get myself a chance to get called up,” Lucia said. “I think that’s a possibility if I work hard.”
And, according to Lucia, that was the biggest piece of advice he received from his father before coming to camp.
“You make an impression every chance you get so you have to make sure it’s a good one,” Lucia said. “That means you have to have your work ethic through the roof. So that’s really all you can do, give it your all and everything else is out of your hands.”
That’s good advice coming from a coach or a father. But it turns out Don has one more role in this repertoire that allows him to truly relate to his son’s situation. Don’s high school football coach was his father so he knows exactly what it’s like to be the coach’s son. Looks like the Lucia men have the perfect family hat trick.