Even after years removed from being a Boston Bruin, Milan Lucic would still catch himself watching games on television featuring the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and yes, the Bruins.
It’s not surprising actually.
Although many associate Lucic with the Bruins Stanley Cup Championship team of 2011, he feels connected to the city for another reason as well.
“That’s where I started. I got drafted in 2006 and made the team as a 19-year-old in 2007. I was a kid when I got there. It’s the place where I went from being a kid to being an adult. I had to learn the ways of being a Bostonian and I had to learn about the city,” said Lucic, who returned to Boston on a one-year, $1.5 million dollar deal as un unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“To be honest, I had to learn about what it meant to be a Bruin because I didn’t know much about the history of the Bruins. There’s the memory of winning the Cup in 2011 but there’s so much more to the place that makes it feel like home.”
Boston is where it all started for Lucic as an NHL rookie back in 2007-08. His game matured to the point where he was an elite power forward with the Bruins while establishing himself as a feared heavyweight in the NHL.
Now, after stops in Los Angeles, Edmonton and Calgary, his career has come full circle back to Boston.
When Calgary General Manager Craig Conroy gave permission for Lucic to talk to other teams prior to the July 1 NHL free agency period, the Bruins reached out.
“I had a good 20-to-25-minute chat with (Bruins GM) Don Sweeney. He asked me if I had any interest in coming back to Boston. After that, I talked to the coach (Jim Montgomery) two or three times and it just went from there. That kind of got the ball rolling on everything,” said the Vancouver native who played his junior hockey with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
Not too many athletes get to return to where it all began and Lucic is extremely appreciative that he gets another opportunity as a Bruin.
“I’ve always thought about it (returning) and I’ve dreamed about it but I honestly didn’t know that it was ever going to happen again. Usually players don’t really get to go back to places where they played in the past. So to be able to have this opportunity is pretty awesome. It feels like a dream come true,” said Lucic.
Boston is a blue-collar city that demands effort and toughness from its athletes and teams.
It’s no wonder that the city embraced Lucic and he embraced it in return during his first stint as a Bruin from 2007 through 2015.
“They have such passionate fans. People are 100% into it. They will let you know when they expect more, but they also have your back no matter what the situation is. It’s just one of those things. There’s just something about it. I wish I could explain it better but once you experience it, it’s something that you know. It’s a special feeling, and as an athlete, that’s exactly what you want to feel,” says Lucic.
Lucic’s return to Boston also is special when it comes to having his children see him play as Bruin. Valentina (10), Nikolina (8) and Milan Jr. (5) now get to experience watching their dad with the team that he is most associated with. It also gives them an opportunity to see what Boston is all about.
“It just adds to it. When I got traded, Valentina was just two-years-old and Nikky was just a newborn. That’s one thing - my kids don’t remember me as a Boston Bruin and if you ask people about me, you know they remember me the most for being a Boston Bruin. So for them now to be able to watch me wear the spoked B adds to it all. Selfishly, that’s something I’m really looking forward to,” said Lucic.
As for his role with the team, it will be different this time around. No longer a top-line player, his game as a bottom-six forward means providing a physical element to the hockey club, and of course, leadership.
“I’m just going in with a positive mindset and to try to help out in a leadership role because we’ve lost a big-time leader in Patrice Bergeron. I think I’ve done a pretty good job in being a bottom-six guy the last couple of years and learning how to play that role. Even speaking to the coach, he says when there are games that the top guys aren’t going that I’ll have an opportunity to play more,” noted Lucic, who has 1,173 NHL games to his credit which is 150th on the all-time list.
Last season, the Bruins set an NHL record in winning the President’s Trophy with 135 points but it was all for not as they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the upstart Florida Panthers in seven games after leading the series three-games-to-one.
Ironically enough, Lucic’s Bruins in 2010 led the Philadelphia Flyers three-games-to-none in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals before losing the series in seven games. They would learn from that experience, however, as they would win the Stanley Cup the following year against Vancouver.
Anyone associated with the Bruins hopes that history repeats itself.
“I mean that (winning the Cup) is the goal every year. To me, that would be that would be a perfect storyline, but there’s a long way to go to get to that point. Right now, I’m just focusing training camp and getting ready for the start of the season,” said Lucic.
If it were to occur, it would make for a storybook finish to a great career.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.