I was watching a Boston Bruins afternoon game in between a doubleheader I had for my own hockey games way back in 2007. It was early on in the season, and I noticed this new player for Bruins powering away on the ice wearing the #62. I thought to myself, “Wow, there isn’t anything pretty about this guy’s game, but he is big and has that grit and physical presence to him. We could have something here that the Bruins need.” That player was Milan Lucic.
Admittedly, I was exceptionally critical of Lucic during his tenure with the Bruins. I always thought too many people put too much stock in him as a player and valued him more than what he was worth as far as point production goes. At best, in my opinion, he was a very solid 3rd line player. Often times he proved to be better than that and even had a 30-goal season (even though five of those were empty netters). Regardless of what you thought of his performance and talent, there was no doubt that he had that toughness to him that embodies what the Bruins wanted to be all about.
Even off the ice, he was heavily involved in the community and he loved Boston as much as the fans loved him. It appeared that he could be a Bruin for life. But, as everyone knows, sports are a business and nothing is meant to end happily ever after. In the 2015 offseason, the Bruins dealt Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that just had to be done. The Bruins were and still are in the middle of remodeling, so the 13th overall pick and the prospects they received were a necessity whether fans were willing to admit it or not. Nearly everyone involved was sad to see him go because it was clear Lucic had a huge impact for the Bruins in more ways than one.
So, when Lucic returned to the TD Garden for the first time last night since the trade, it was destined to be an emotional one. During the second TV timeout, the Bruins played a tribute video for Lucic on the big screen sending the crowd into a standing ovation. The video highlighted from his first career goal all the way up to when Lucic helped the Bruins finally lift the Stanley Cup in 2011. The appreciation that the Bruins faithful had for him was evident as chants of “Milan Lucic” filled the Garden. Lucic even notched home a goal and an assist to contribute to the Kings’ absolute obliteration of the Bruins by a final score of 9-2. It would prove to be a night Lucic and fans will likely not forget any time soon, and surprisingly not because of the final score.
Say what you will about Lucic and his performances as a Bruin, whether that be good or bad. But it is impossible to deny that Lucic had the heart of Bruin, and every night he put on that sweater, it meant something for him. Whether it was a fight or a big hit, Lucic was there to answer the bell, which was a testament to how much he cared to be a Bruin. What makes the Bruins organization so historic and unique is the proud players that have worn the spoked-B on their chest. Years down the line, it won’t necessarily matter how many points he had or the number of fights he was in. What will be remembered, however, is that every night Milan Lucic pulled that sweater on, he was proud to be Bruin.