Without fail, Milan Lucic would know where they would be for home games in Boston at the Garden, taking their positions through his long career with the Bruins.
He would find one woman, the “Big Looch fan,” and acknowledge her presence and devotion with a tap on the glass at the start of pregame warmups. Scruffy of the Dropkick Murphys, the former bagpiper of the Celtic punk rock group, would salute him during the national anthem.
“There’s the guy who calls himself Fat Guy Matt,” Lucic said, smiling widely. “He would always yell around six minutes left in warmup. He’d yell, ‘Looch, you’re an animal!’ I could hear it and I’d smile back at him.
“Those are the things you remember.”
They were like fixtures on the stage, only the set was a sports arena. A better analogy, this being Boston — it was almost like “Cheers” coming to the Garden. You wanna go where everybody knows your name.
They still will when Lucic returns Tuesday with the Kings, the first time the iconic power forward comes back to Boston as a member of the visiting team. He was traded to the Kings in the off-season, on June 26, for defenseman Colin Miller, a first-round draft pick in 2015, and goaltender Martin Jones, who was later shipped to the San Jose Sharks.
“The schedule came out before the trade happened,” Lucic said. “So that was one of the first things that I looked at. It’s kind of odd we haven’t played them yet, considering how many Eastern Conference teams we’ve played. I think it’s going to be a pretty cool experience to go in there for the first time as a visitor.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve played there. The last home game was the fourth-to-last game of the season.”
Lucic took out a full-page advertisement in the Boston Globe in July to thank the fans and the Bruins organization, from ownership to the front office to the coaches and the players, and wrote about living his dream when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
The thank-you note in the Globe started by mentioning that he joined the team when he was 19. Lucic, 27, expanded upon that theme during a conversation last week in El Segundo. The teenage Lucic joined a struggling team in his rookie season in 2007-08 and the kid from Vancouver didn’t know all the story lines of the historic, original-six franchise.
Boston missed the playoffs in the two seasons before Lucic arrived and the Bruins got back there in his rookie season, losing to Montreal in seven games in the first round.
“I was born in 1988. That was, what, [more than] nine years after Bobby [Orr] stopped playing,” Lucic said. “To be honest, I didn’t have much knowledge of how good Bobby Orr actually was. I had no real appreciation for him and his era, and Phil Esposito and Johnny Bucyk and after that Cash [Wayne Cashman], Ken Hodge and [Gerry] Cheevers.
“Then the Big Bad Bruins: Brad Park, Terry O’Reilly.”
“It’s funny. I didn’t know anything about Terry O’Reilly,” Lucic said. “And everyone there is comparing me to him. We have the same birthday [June 7]. For me, it was pretty cool.
“Being on the Pacific Coast, you don’t really know. We didn’t have Center Ice. It was the Canucks or the Leafs on every Saturday night. That was it. Other than Joe Thornton or Ray Bourque I didn’t know much about anything before I got there.
“The history lesson is what I got to be a part of. This is, what, the 92nd season of the Bruins and I get to say I was part of one of the best-ever eras to be a Bruin.”
The transition from Boston to Los Angeles has looked seamless from a professional level. Lucic’s impact on his new team was immediate, starting with the season opener against San Jose. He has 12 goals and 30 points and 66 penalty minutes in 50 games, missing one game because of a suspension late last month for throwing a sucker punch in a game against the Arizona Coyotes.
“It’s helped that I’ve already played 50 games for the Kings now and I can say I feel like a King and part of everything,” he said. “Everything is starting to feel normal being around here and all those things that come with the trade.
“It is nice that it’s taken this long, so I could find myself within the team and the organization and within the locker room before I could head back. It’s nice to establish myself. The team has been on a little bit of a skid lately, but I think a road trip like this couldn’t come at a better time.”
With Kings center Anze Kopitar’s contract extension completed last month, the next two orders of business for the organization are Coach Darryl Sutter’s future, because his contract expires after this season, and Lucic, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Lucic said that negotiations are in the early stages.
“If I could look eight, nine, 10 years down the road, hopefully I play that long. I hope it is right here in L.A. and that something can get done and conversations can get picked up in the near future because I really have enjoyed my time this season and love being a King and living here in L.A.
“Hopefully, it can last more than one season.”