Kootenay Ice fans will get a chance to see Brad Lukowich on the bench, but it won’t be in Cranbrook.
The local and former NHL defenceman has been hired on as an assistant coach with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, joining newly announced bench boss Drake Berehowsky that represents a new coaching changeover for next season.
“He knows what it takes to win at the highest level, and he’s also returned to Dallas and worked as a player-coach with Jordie Benn, Brenden Dillon and Philip Larsen,” said Hurricanes GM Brad Robson in a press release, adding that his experience is a huge asset to the team.
Lukowich said his relationship with Robson, a former regional scout with the Dallas Stars, sealed the deal.
“It’s been a long relationship so we know each other quite well and him being the GM is the number one thing,” said Lukowich, who was in Lethbridge for the announcement before driving back to home in Cranbrook.
“I know his history, he knows mine, so just going up there even today, it was very comfortable, like we been around each other for a long time. Really, it came down to the term and the familiar face of Brad Robson that landed me in Lethbridge.”
Lukowich is a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Dallas Stars (1999) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (2004) and has appeared in 658 regular season NHL games over his career. Prior to turning pro, Lukowich played major-junior hockey in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and won consecutive Memorial Cups in 1994 and 1995.
Lukowich said coming in on a new coaching tandem with Berehowsky was another factor that made Lethbridge appealing.
“He’s fresh, which is great for me, I like that because there is a change in the game right now,” Lukowich said. “It’s become a different style and he’s one of those ex-players that jumped right off the ice and went into coaching.
“…He’s seen the morph of the game gone from the North American style into the Euro-North American style, which is a blend of the two, so he’s very familiar with the way the game is being taught now and played.”
Berehowsky, himself a former NHL rearguard, has worked in the OHL with the Barrie Colts and in the AHL with the Peoria Riverman, both in an assistant coaching capacity.
Lukowich will draw on his years of developing and playing professionally to coach his young players when the season rolls around next September. He already has a bit of experience in that department working with the Dallas Stars’ prospects in Austin with the Texas Stars in the AHL as a player-coach.
“I was kind of coaching as an extra guy in Austin for a couple years,” Lukowich said. “I was doing some stuff with management as well, and I loved it. I thought it was great.
“I spent a lot of attention on a couple guys, usually the younger guys. If you can just tweak a couple little things with them, you can make them so much better. I loved how interested the guys were in learning and to tell them something and then see them go out and get the direct response and see them kind of turn around and give you a look that you kind of knew what you were talking about—the reward paid off.”
It was Lukowich’s desire to get into coaching once he hung up his skates in 2012, however, instability caused by the NHL lockout kept him away from game. During the hiatus, he was able to take a bit of a break and enjoyed spending time with his family, but once the puck dropped in January, he got the itch.
“It’s something I want to be around, I love the game of hockey and I just wanted to be back in it, in any way, shape or form,” Lukowich said. “I always kind of thought about getting into coaching and this is the way to do it.”