Milan Lucic on why Flames players won’t stay in Calgary

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 8: Milan Lucic #17 of the Calgary Flames skates up ice during the third period of their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on April 8, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 8: Milan Lucic #17 of the Calgary Flames skates up ice during the third period of their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on April 8, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images) /

Milan Lucic shared some critiques of the Calgary Flames organization in a recent interview. Despite enjoying his time with the team, he ultimately left to sign with the Boston Bruins. Lucic suggested that it may be challenging to attract and retain players in Calgary.

Calgarians have every right to be angry at Milan Lucic, but they shouldn’t be. Lucic speaks highly of his time with the Calgary Flames, but understands why some former teammates have chosen to leave.

In an interview on The Eric Francis Show featured on Sportsnet, the 35-year-old forward reflected on how his four years with the Flames reignited his love for hockey and how he and his family embraced the city and its fans. Lucic also praised his former teammates, calling them some of the best in his career.

However, the Flames have faced criticism for the departure of key players and the potential loss of more. During the interview, Lucic was asked why recruiting and retaining players in Calgary can be challenging.

Milan Lucic gives thoughts on why Flames players won’t stay in Calgary

"“I enjoyed it and embraced it and think it’s a great place to play and live, and when the chinook winds come through in the winter, it makes it real nice. When teams come in, it’s usually cold. Even though we all love the’ Dome, it’s old. That’s the main thing. It’s a smaller city. There’s not much going on other than the Flames. It’s not like on a day off you can go to an NBA or MLB game. The travel – it is tough travel. Again, just trying to give you an honest answer about what guys are thinking about.”"

Although there may be few options for non-hockey sports during the season, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy. Calgary boasts stunning mountain scenery within an hour’s drive year-round, making it an attractive destination for athletes considering signing and playing in the city. A new arena to replace the SattleDome in Calgary could attract more players if the team keeps winning with its young core.

We just saw Alex Debrincat want out of Ottawa because he didn’t see himself living there for several years. The Senators dealt him to his hometown Detroit Red Wings. The Winnipeg Jets have also experienced players leaving due to the climate. Pierre Luc-Dubious requested a trade from the Jets to be in a more popular market. He got his wish and is now on the Los Angeles Kings. Jets Goaltender Connor Hellybuck wants to leave for somewhere in the United States after his contract runs out following the 2023-24 season. It’s tough to make money in Hockey compared to other sports. The highest-paid player, Nathan McKinnon, makes $12.6 million annually. Conversely, Stephen Curry is the highest-paid player in the NBA, earning $53.8 million per season.

While Hockey is a way of life in Canada, the dollar is thinner than in America, and so is the population.

In an interview with GQ Sports , Wayne Gretzky said the same thing about Edmonton. “Not much goes on in Edmonton. It’s hockey, church, and the Oilers”.

Those comments should extinguish the Flame inside Calgary citizens. It’s not your fault. It’s not the organization’s fault. Rather, it’s the player’s lifestyle preference. Some prefer modern markets like Toronto, Montreal, or somewhere south of the border. It’s been frustrating for Flames fans to watch Johnny Gaudreau, Mathew Tkachuk, Tyler Toffoli, and Lucic bolt for the States. But as we learned this Summer, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Noah, Hanifin, and Elias Lindholm could be next. However, don’t worry Flames fans. It could work out for the better.

Conversely, you’ll get players who truly want to be in Calgary and love the city for what it is. Canada is the NHL’s top supplier. Calgary is a hockey-crazed city. Lucic’s comments shouldn’t make you think twice about that. Instead, take them in stride and beam with pride. Calgary isn’t for everyone, and that’s a good thing.

Lucic also shared his thoughts on former coach Darryl Sutter’s coaching approach. When asked about being a healthy scratch late last season, Lucic expressed his initial frustration but acknowledged that it’s part of the game and something he will handle better in the future.

Despite some communication issues under Sutter, Lucic praised him as the best and smartest coach he’s ever played for.

"“I’m a huge Darryl Sutter fan. Honestly, out of all the coaches I’ve played for, I think he’s the best and smartest coach I’ve played for. The way he breaks the game down and way he brings the game forward, I’ve never seen anyone do it the way he does. With the communication part, it’s very interesting. He’s very old school in a lot of ways, very set in his ways. I’ve only had great experiences with him.”"

Lucic acknowledged the frustration felt by the Flames for not living up to expectations by missing the playoffs and described the dressing room as “heavy” due to the challenges faced by the team.

Over four seasons playing for the Flames, Lucic scored 35 goals and had 48 assists in 283 games. On April 13, 2021, he marked his 1,000th NHL game while playing for the Flames.

In his entire career, which spans playing for Boston, Los Angeles, Edmonton, and Calgary, Lucic has scored 233 goals and had 584 points in 1,173 games. He has also played in 136 playoff games, where he scored 29 goals and had 48 assists. This past spring, Lucic played in the men’s world championship for the first time and won a gold medal with Canada.

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