BOSTON (CBS) – By gosh, maybe now he finally gets it.
Milan Lucic on Monday after practice at Ristuccia Arena responded to the video that’s made its way across the internet. In it, Lucic is having a verbal exchange with an alleged attacker outside a Vancouver nightclub on Saturday night.
Although the Bruins forward said he and his representatives are taking legal steps to do something about the person he says punched him at least twice, once inside and once outside the club, in his comments the 25-year-old Lucic bore some of the burden for the latest blemish on the Bruins’ once shiny gold reputation.
“Well it sucks being in that situation,” Lucic said. “But then again, you’ve got to take ownership of it and know that it happened because you were in that situation. We came off a good road trip and want to, I guess, blow off some steam and have some fun, and unfortunately it had to end the way that it did. And hopefully it’s not a distraction towards the team, more so any more, further after today.”
Lucic said the attack was unprovoked. Whether his version of the events is the accurate one, we’ll never know. What we do know is that, unfortunately, just Lucic’s presence in public in his hometown of Vancouver could be provocation enough. Nothing excuses the boorish behavior of people that drink too much and then decide they’re going to defend the honor of their favorite team or impress their buddies by sticking up to a world-class athlete that stands 6-foor-3, 228 pounds.
You start with the notion that pro athletes, or celebrities in general, are already targets for attention-starved nitwits. Then you add in the bad blood between the Bruins and Canucks, and put one of the Bruins’ most recognizable players out past everyone’s bed time, and you have the ingredients for trouble. In explaining the situation Monday, Lucic rehashed the bad memories that have come for him and his family back home since the Bruins and Canucks played for the Stanley Cup. Lucic’s family church in Burnaby was defaced with graffiti a couple years ago. And incidents where he or his family have been harassed in public have become so common that Lucic even told CBS Boston prior to the Bruins’ road trip that he hadn’t been back to Rogers Arena since the Bruins won the Cup.
Now we know why Lucic had been staying away. We just don’t know why he decided to end his hiatus. It sounds like Vancouver’s hooligans aren’t going to get another shot at Lucic.
“Yeah, that’s one of the worst parts. It’s in my hometown and going back to the spray-painting of the church, and my grandparents and parents getting harassed during the final against the Canucks in 2011. And now, you know, it’s escalated to a point where I get attacked for minding my own business,” he said. “So it’s, you know, I have no reason left to defend my city and the people of my city. And I’m in kind of just disgust and in outrage that it had to come to something like that. So as far as that goes, other than being at Rogers Arena, no one will ever see me in downtown Vancouver ever again.”
It’s about time Lucic has seemingly woken up to this. Heck, he doesn’t have to avoid his hometown altogether. He could use part of his $7 million annual pay to rent out a bar, or at least part of one, to hang out with buddies and keep the riff raff away. He could hire protection. Or just stay in friendly territory.
Of course, this isn’t Lucic’s first public entanglement. The summer after the Bruins won the Cup, Lucic was involved in a public dispute with his then-girlfriend (now his wife) that resulted in the police arriving at his house shortly after the couple made their way home. There were no charges, and Lucic’s celebrity status was probably the only reason the incident got any attention. Nonetheless, had Lucic learned his lesson about being an attention magnet back then, he could’ve avoided this latest situation.
Lucic’s problem couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Bruins. Already they were dealing with the Shawn Thornton incident and subsequent 15-game suspension. Then Brad Marchand decided to play Stanley Cup charades with the Canucks in the midst of his team getting smoked. All the claims about The Code and class were circling the drain. And then the Lucic video comes along. Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team is dealing with all these things “in house.” Housekeeping shouldn’t be such a large part of his job, and we’ll see how it affects the Bruins’ on-ice performance going forward.
By acknowledging the situation and answering questions about it, Lucic was doing his best to make sure the attention doesn’t hinder his team. He was also trying to shame the cowards that are giving Vancouver a bad name.
The most important thing that has to come out of this, however, is that Lucic has to decide once and for all to steer clear of any situation that could put him or his family in harm, or embarrass him or the Bruins’ organization. Celebrity can be a burden. But it’s one he’s well-compensate for and one that he chose to pursue. He should be sure the rest of his celebrating or unwinding is only done where everybody knows his name, but not because they want to use it with an expletive.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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