Thunder captain prepares for life after junior hockey
Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017 06:00 am
Crossfield’s Lukas Pollock said it was a bittersweet feeling to end his junior hockey career March 24 after four seasons of hockey in the junior ranks.
Pollock, like the rest of the 21-year-old Airdrie Techmation Thunder players, put an end to their careers not in the way they hoped, but with positive memories from their time playing at Ron Ebbesen Arena.
“Looking back, I considered not playing this year, but I’m pretty happy I did,” Pollock said. “I would have been pretty disappointed in myself if I didn’t.”
Coming into the 2016-17 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) season, there was one goal in mind for the Thunder – an HJHL Championship. The team seemed poised for a run at it this year with an impressive run in the regular season, which included the third-best record in the league and the expectation to try for its first title in 17 years.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t do it, but that happens,” Pollock said. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win the championship…If you don’t go into a year looking for a championship, then you’re in for the wrong reasons.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the Thunder as the team fell in its second round matchup to the Red Deer Vipers in six games. The Vipers eventually went on to win the HJHL title.
For Pollock, the 2016-17 season almost never happened after the defenceman considered calling it a career a year early, but said the itch brought him back to the ice for one more run at a league championship.
He added his consideration of not returning to the Thunder was brought on because he had the choice, but now that the choice is gone and he is no longer eligible to return, he knows how much he is going to miss the game.
“It’s a different feeling knowing you can’t go back and play another year,” Pollock said. “I had a lot of support from my parents, girlfriend, coaches and guys on the team that pushed me to come back. At the end of the day, I knew as soon as I hit the ice, there wasn’t a chance I wouldn’t be going back.”
The Crossfield resident’s junior tenure spanned four years, playing his first two years of eligibility in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Olds Grizzlys before returning to Airdrie and playing in the HJHL for the past two seasons.
As a 20-year-old, Pollock refound his offensive touch and put together two of his most offensively productive seasons in his hockey career.
During the 2015-16 season, Pollock finished with 29 points (5g, 24a) in 37 games, first among Thunder defenceman, and was named the team’s Top Defenceman that season.
In his final year with the team, the rearguard was named the team’s captain and played in 35 games, accumulating 32 points (4g, 28a).
For his efforts, Pollock took home his second Top Defenceman honour in as many seasons and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016-17 season.
“It’s an honour. I didn’t expect to get trophies like that,” Pollock said. “We had a strong defensive core this year…There are arguably a couple of guys that could have got that award.”
Looking back on his time with the Thunder, Pollock said he hoped he made an impact with the team in his two years, but felt the team had made more of an impact on him.
With his junior career now over, Pollock said that puts an end to his hockey career and he is done playing at a highly competitive level, but isn’t quite sure what his future holds for him.
One option he said he is considering is coming back as a coach and passing along what he learned in his years of playing hockey to the next generation of players.
“Hockey is a life-teaching game. You can learn so many life skills,” he said.