VANCOUVER, BC - On June 15, 2011, Milan Lucic hoisted Lord Stanley on the ice in Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver.
This city is very special to him. But it's not just because of that day, and the memories the Bruin will carry with him for the rest of his life.
This is his hometown, where he grew up a short drive from downtown, where he began his junior career with the Vancouver Giants, and where he now spends summers with his family.
"I'm fortunate to be able to come back out here to where it's such a beautiful spot," Lucic said, as he took the #BearTracks crew into his home for a few days.
"It's always nice to get to come home and see your family, get back to your roots and see all of your friends that you grew up with."
This is the place where he was able to head up to the top of Grouse Mountain with not only the Stanley Cup, but also junior hockey's Memorial Cup.
When Lucic invited us to his parents' home in East Vancouver, he took us upstairs to his old room, where he joked that it was still the same bed, but there were some notable new additions since the last time he had lived at home.
Hanging to the right of the doorway as you entered the room of a young Lucic, was his plaque commemorating the Giants' 2007 Memorial Cup. It contained multiple photos, which the Bruin started explaining - his photo after winning the Cup, his photo after winning MVP, his photo after being winning the humanitarian award…
He was simply describing the memorabilia his parents had installed, but I had to kid: "Is there anything you didn't win that year?"
The power forward's career was just starting to take off at that point. He's talked before about the drastic change that happened from playing with Coquitlam Express in 2004-05, to jumping to the Western Hockey League with the Giants, where he would end his short-lived junior career on top, before making the B's roster out of Training Camp in 2007.
"Winning it for the hometown team was pretty awesome," said Lucic, of the Memorial Cup win, while looking at all of his trophies and accolades in his parents' home.
"It was really cool, especially being from this area, the team plays in East Vancouver and right now, we’re in East Vancouver."
"And right next door [from the Pacific Coliseum where the Giants play] is the Agrodome, where I first started playing hockey, so to be able to win it right next door from where I was - I got to win where I grew up. It was pretty awesome."
Lucic may not have known at the time what his future would bring, but the Hockey Hall of Fame certainly would. He was the only member of that winning team that didn't receive his game-worn jersey; the Hall of Fame took it.
And as he moved around the memorablia on the walls, right above his bed, was the addition of his first NHL goal plaque from 2007, which came against LA's Jonathan Bernier. It was only fitting that Lucic scored his first amidst a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Then, as we made our way from his room, down through the living room (as we passed an autographed Cam Neely jersey framed on the wall), there were various photos framed, including one of his draft photos (he also still has his draft day hat) from 2006.
It's amazing to think of just how far the 24-year-old has already come in his hockey career.
As we made our way through the rest of the house with our gracious host, there was also a generous amount of Stanley Cup memorabilia. Up on top of the mantle, there was a Stanley Cup Champion flag from the postgame celebration in the locker room at Rogers Arena ("You can never have enough," said Lucic).
Whether it's his junior days, draft day or the day he and the Bruins took home the Stanley Cup, it's not lost on the 'B' that years ago, he was just a kid growing up in East Vancouver, working hard and playing a game he loved. (Though it should also be noted he wasn't just a great hockey player; he also was in the rugby championships and was a standout lacrosse player).
Nine years ago, he was a 15-year-old suiting up for Coquitlam. Now, he's a Stanley Cup Champion who still has a long career ahead.
"It’s pretty crazy how quick it all went," said Lucic, shaking his head with a smile, and pointing at his Coquitlam photo. "When you actually sit down and think about it. It doesn’t seem like it was nine years ago when I was suiting up for this team, but it happens so quick"
"All my worries were just making this team at that time, I had no idea where I was going to end up from this point on. Just making this step to this step was a huge step for me."
"Obviously, it’s worked out for the best."
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