Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Morris Lukowich

Little Morris Lukowich was an explosive player - both in terms of speed and scoring. He also added a bit of sandpaper to his game, playing with admirable grit.

Born in the Speers, Saskatchewan, Lukowich played 3 seasons of junior hockey with the WCJHL Medicine Hat Tigers. In his final season in "The Hat," Morris had a career year, scoring 65 times and accumulating 142 points in 72 games. His fine season got him named as the WCJHL First All Star Team on left wing. More importantly, he got noticed by NHL scouts. Despite his small stature (just 5'9" and 170 lbs on a good day), Morris was selected 47th overall in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins

Morris was also selected by the Houston Aeros in the 1976 World Hockey Association Amateur Draft. Morris opted to turn pro in the WHA instead of going the NHL route.

"I was a young guy and I got an opportunity to spend a week down in Houston with Gordie Howe and his sons, Mark and Marty, and I was just really impressed by them. So when I ended up with the two contract offers, the two contracts were about the same that Pittsburgh and Houston were offering, and Pittsburgh hadn’t really even talked to me at all, they’d actually mostly ignored me. And Houston was talking that they really wanted me and I just really thought it would be a great situation," said Lukowich.

Getting a chance to meet and play with Mr. Hockey played a big role in his decision as well.

"I mean Gordie Howe was an idol of mine when I was young and I decided that it looked like there was more of a chance that I was going to play there as well as an opportunity to play with Gordie Howe. And I will never regret that because those are memories that I’ll never forget."

Lukowich progressed nicely as a player in the WHA under Howe and Co.'s tutelage. Morris had a respectable rookie season in the high scoring WHA, scoring 27 times and adding 18 assists. By year 2 he developed into a league scoring threat, notching 40 goals and 75 points. He also added 8 goals and 15 points in 10 playoff contests.

In what proved to be the final season for the WHA, Lukowich moved to Winnipeg to join the high flying Jets, the class of the league. Morris had a terrific year with the offense-first Jets, finding the net 65 times! Add 34 assists and his 99 points was good enough to be named as the WHA's Second Team All Star on left wing. More importantly, Lukowich scored 8 goals and a team high 15 points en route to capturing the final WHA championship.

Morris has fond memories of his tenure in the rebel league.

"It was great for me to watch the things that Gordie Howe would do and Mark Howe. And our league had a lot of great players like Marc Tardif, Real Cloutier, Robbie Ftorek. To watch these guys, you could learn a lot about hockey."

However the league was in financial peril, and had to fold in 1979. The 4 remaining teams - Edmonton, Hartford, Quebec and Winnipeg - merged with the NHL. However the WHA teams could only protect a fraction of their roster. Lukowich was one of the few players Winnipeg managed to hang on to.

The early years for the NHL Jets were pretty tough, as the team lost way more games than they won. But Lukowich was one of the few bright spots on many nights. He scored 35 and 33 goals in his first two seasons respectively, before notching his best NHL numbers in 1981-82. Lukowich found the net 43 times and collected 92 points. For his efforts Morris was invited to the NHL All Star game for the second year in a row, playing on a line with Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier.

After his best year Morris took a step back in 1982-83. Battling through some nagging injuries, Morris played in 69 games but only had 22 goals and 43 points. He rebounded somewhat in '83-84, finding the 30 goal mark once again plus 25 assists. However a horrible start in 1984-85 got him traded out of Winnipeg. He scored just 5 times in 47 games before Morris was moved to Boston in exchange for crafty veteran Jim Nill.

Lukowich's stay in Boston was short, just 36 games over 2 seasons. He was exposed on waivers early in the 1985-86 season and was gobbled up by the Los Angeles Kings. Lukowich rounded out his NHL career by playing his final two years in the Californian sunshine.

Lukowich's NHL career ended in 1987, but he continued to play professionally over in Europe.

Despite missing the NHL playoffs so often in his career, the early end to his seaons allowe him to experience one of his favorite moments in hockey - the 1981 World Championships.

"Well, definitely playing in the World Championships was terrific. I got to play with some of the best players in the NHL and got to play in Sweden. So it was interesting to see another part of the world."

Lukowich obviously enjoyed his European stint in '81. So much so that he crossed the Atlantic once his NHL career was over to continue playing hockey. Lukowich played in both Italy and Switzerland. It was an interesting time for the former NHL All Star.

"Europe is a very, very high pressure situation. I actually lost my job there one time. I got fired and that was after I got nine points one night! So crazy stuff can happen there and the people there take their hockey very seriously."

Once Lukowich finally hung up the blades, he tried his hands at coaching, with Roller Hockey International and ice hockey in Japan.

Now he's doing a real job.

"Currently I live in Calgary and work in buying and selling stock and also in corporate finance, raising money for private companies."

3 comments:

Anonymous,  10:30 PM  

NICEST GUY YOU'D EVER WANT TO MEET! THANKS FOR AUTOGRAPHING THE PUCKS & PICTURES. THE BOY'S (BILLY & RYAN) LOVE THEM! THANKS AGAIN!

Anonymous,  6:03 PM  

Played hockey and baseball with Morris in Saskatoon, always a great guy and hard worker, and a very humble guy.

Anonymous,  3:17 PM  

Lukowich was my childhood hero. I still wear number 12 today in all the sports I play. Loved watching him with the Jets. Thanks for this great post.

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