“If a Hollywood studio was about to make a movie about professional hockey, Robert Redford wouldn’t be needed for the title role - Dan Lucas would fit the part with ease”
- Canadian Hockey League Magazine (1975)
In 1975, Dan Lucas was considered one of the top pro prospects in junior hockey. That all changed in December 1975, when he walked away from the game after a dispute with his coach. He returned in 1977 to play junior with Wayne Gretzky and became an NHL first-round draft pick. The teenage years of Dan Lucas is a wild and unique hockey journey.
Born in Powell River, Lucas joined the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) when he was 14 years old. Arriving just after Christmas in 1972, he helped the Broncos win the 1973 SJHL championship. Lucas began the 1973/74 season with Humboldt and led the SJHL in scoring after 18 games. In December 1973, he joined the Cougars and went on to score 16 points in 29 games. As a sixteen-year-old in 1974/75, Lucas emerged as one of the top players in the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). He finished the year with 116 points as the Cougars captured their first West Division title.
At the start of the 1975 Training Camp, Cougars GM/Coach Pat Ginnell (who coached Bobby Clarke in junior) said, “Danny has to be the best pro prospect I’ve ever had.”
Unfortunately, the relationship between Ginnell and Lucas ended a few months later. After a 4-3 loss to New Westminster on December 22, 1975, Ginnell was highly critical of Lucas during the post-game radio show. Ginnell “put much of the blame on the Jim Gustafson - Lucas - Jeff McDill line and particularly singled out Lucas, even threatening to trade him 'if he didn’t get moving.’” His parents heard the interview and relayed the remarks to their son. Lucas was so upset, the next morning he left the team. Upon returning home to Powell River he said, “It’s something that should have been kept in the dressing room.” When asked about his plans, Lucas said he was “just going to think things out over the Christmas holiday and decide whether hockey or education will come first.” Subsequently, Ginnell suspended Lucas indefinitely and angrily stated, “if he can’t take a little criticism, we don’t need him.” Neither side apologized as Lucas sat out the remainder of the season and never returned to the Cougars. The next year, Lucas enrolled at the University of British Columbia, joined the hockey team, and was second in scoring.
In 1977, Lucas left UBC and returned to junior hockey. Even though Pat Ginnell was no longer with the team, Lucas had no desire to go back to the Cougars. Instead, he wanted to join the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). This move was unusual as junior players rarely change leagues. The Greyhounds pursued Lucas because they wanted a proven veteran to play alongside their 16-year-old phenom - Wayne Gretzky. After a long negotiation, Sault St. Marie reached a financial settlement with the WCHL, and Lucas became a Greyhound.
At training camp, Lucas was put on the same line as Gretzky. The two enjoyed instant chemistry, as they became the top scoring line in the OHL. Lucas finished the year with 50 goals and 117 points, while sixteen-year-old Gretzky picked up 182 points. Even with the high-scoring duo, the Greyhounds finished a disappointing fourth place. In the playoffs, they were eliminated by the Ottawa 67’s in the second round.
Playing with Gretzky helped his draft stock as the Philadelphia Flyers made Lucas their first-round pick (14th overall) in 1978. Lucas enjoyed a strong training camp and made the Flyers to start the 1978-79 season. On October 19, 1978, he scored his first NHL goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Former Cougar teammate Mel Bridgman assisted on the goal, as Philadelphia won 3-1. After six games, the Flyers sent Lucas to their American Hockey League farm team in Maine. Lucas skated with Maine for the rest of the season as they won the 1979 Calder Cup.
Lucas never returned to the NHL and retired in 1981 after three years in the minors with Maine and Fort Wayne. His NHL career ended with one goal in six games. Ken Reid featured Lucas in his 2020 book - One to Remember: Stories from 39 Members of the NHL’s One Goal Club.
In 1981, Lucas retired from hockey, started selling real estate in Portland, Maine and currently owns Lucas Real Estate. He coached the Cheverus High School hockey team from 2009-2018, twice-winning high school coach of the year, and remains active in local hockey.