“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”
Although the above quote from a 1975 Canadian Hockey Magazine is way over the top, one of the most fascinating hockey journeys of any Victoria Cougar player belongs to Dan Lucas.
Born in Powell River, Lucas left his hometown when he was 14 years old to play for the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Arriving just after Christmas in 1972, he helped the Broncos win the 1973 SJHL championship. The next year Lucas played 18 games with the Broncos before moving up to the Victoria Cougars, scoring 16 points in 29 games. As a sixteen year old in 1974/75, Lucas became one of the top players in the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) scoring 116 points for the first place Cougars.
At the start of the 1975 Training Camp, GM/Coach Pat Ginnell (who coached Bobby Clarke in junior) was his biggest supporter saying, “Danny has to be the best pro prospect I’ve ever had.”
Unfortunately the relationship between Ginnell and Lucas ended a few months later on December 20th, 1975. After a poor showing in a 4-3 loss to New Westminster, Ginnell went on the post game radio show and was highly critical of Lucas. According to the December 23, 1975 edition of the Daily Colonist, 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.’” The interview was heard by Lucas’ parents who relayed the remarks to their son. Lucas was so upset about Ginnell’s comments that he left the team the next morning and went back home to Powell River saying, “It’s something that should have been kept in the dressing room.” When asked about his future plans, Lucas said he was “ just going to think things out over the Christmas holiday and decide whether hockey or education will come first.” Consequently, when he heard the news, 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, focusing on his education and never returned to the Cougars.
The next year Lucas enrolled at the University of British Columbia, joined the hockey team, played in every game and was second in team scoring.
In 1977, Lucas decided to return to major junior hockey as he had one year left of eligibility. There was no desire to go back to Cougars or to any team in the WCHL, but instead he wanted to join the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). This was very unusual as junior players rarely change leagues. The Greyhounds were building up a strong team preparing to co-host the Memorial Cup and wanted a proven veteran to play alongside their new 16 year old phenom - Wayne Gretzky. After many weeks of negotiation, Greyhounds General Manager Angelo Bumbacco negotiated a financial settlement with the Commissioner of the WCHL and the Cougars so Lucas was able to join the team.
At training camp, there was instant chemistry between Gretzky and Lucas playing together on the Greyhounds top line. Lucas finished the year with 50 goals and 117 points, while sixteen year old Gretzky was second in OHL scoring with 182 points. Even with the high scoring Gretzky and Lucas, the Greyhounds finished a disappointing fourth place in the Leyden Division and eliminated in the second round by the Ottawa 67’s.
Playing with Gretzky helped Lucas get noticed by NHL scouts as the Philadelphia Flyers selected him in the first round (14th overall) at the 1978 entry draft. For the next two years Lucas skated with the Flyers farm team, the Maine Mariners, winning a Calder Cup in 1979. Unfortunately, Lucas never lived up to the expectations of a first round draft pick as he only played six games with the Flyers at the start of the 1978-79 season. He scored his only NHL goal on October 19, 1978 in a 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins with former Cougar teammate Mel Bridgman assisting on the play.
In 1981, Lucas retired from hockey, started selling real estate in Portland, Maine and is currently the President/Owner of Lucas Real Estate. He coached the Cheverus High School hockey team in Portland from 2009-2018, twice winning high school coach of the year, and remains active in local hockey.