Photo by Rena Laverty
With his mom having played college basketball, it was only natural that Chaz Lucius started playing that sport. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he had a different passion and he belonged on the ice.
“My mom started us playing basketball when I was 6 years old,” he said. “She played college basketball at [Minnesota State University-Mankato] so she started us with her love. I played basketball for two years but I really didn’t like it, so we switched to hockey and I have loved it ever since.”
Lucius might have started later on the ice but that didn’t stop him from falling in love with the game.
“I started playing hockey when I was 8 years old,” he said. “No one played hockey in my family. My dad played a little, but in all honesty, I consider my brother and I as the first ones to really play the sport.
“My brother and I started playing and we had so much fun playing together. I just loved how fast-paced the game was, even when I was 8 years old. It was just a fun game.”
Lucius, who grew up in Grant, Minnesota, just outside of St. Paul, had a unique opportunity when he first started high school. His parents, Chuck and Tami, are the founders of Gentry Academy, where Lucius went to high school and played hockey.
“It was pretty special since my parents started it,” he said. “They really wanted to give back to the community so that makes it more special. I got to play hockey, too, so that was a bonus. I did what I love and it really speaks volumes and I have made life-long friends.”
When an opportunity knocked for Lucius to leave Gentry and come to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, he jumped at the chance. it was a difficult transition at times, especially when it came to his new high school.
“It was different for me,” he said. “I had to leave my friends and family and of course, Gentry. It was the best decision for me and I never regretted it. I didn’t really know anybody who had played here before so I had to learn on my own.
“The toughest part for me was adjusting to a new school. Gentry only has 150 kids but now, I’m going to Novi High School and they have about 2,500 students. That was a big adjustment to me. Leaving home isn’t easy and I miss my friends, but I’m so glad that I came here.”
Another adjustment for Lucius was losing his long-time linemate and hockey-playing brother, Cruz.
“We have always played together as he has always played up,” said Lucius. “Since we started playing, we have been linemates. At the start of the season, it was different since I had always gone to him for things, whether it was playing or for ideas.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“When I first got here, I really didn’t have that since I didn’t know the guys as well. Now, it’s much easier since I know the players. I still talk to my brother almost every day.”
Lucius knows the importance of working hard, whether it’s on or off the ice and he can thank his brother for helping push him. The 6-foot, 172-pound forward already has tallied 31 goals in 45 games this season and is on pace to land among the all-time best NTDP goal-scoring seasons.
“For me, I think that I have been in the right place at the right time,” he stated. “I have put in the work, in both shooting and the mental preparation. I visualize myself as a player and how to score goals. I’m always working to get better.
“Every day when I get to the rink, I put on my stuff and get my gloves and spend about 30 minutes in the shooting room. I’m working on my shot. For me, I can see the difference that it is making.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
More than anything, he credits the coaching staff in helping him grow and develop his game. He already has seen one big area of development since arriving in Plymouth in August.
“My all-around 200-foot game,” said Lucius. “Coach Wrobo [John Wroblewksi] has been really good for me. He is all about the details and what it means to be a pro. He understands what we need to do to help develop and take our game to the next level.
“It’s not just the offensive skills but the defensive skills, too. I get to watch film and at the end of the day, you really can see the growth, especially in the defensive zone. I want to do whatever is right for the team.”
Lucius loves the opportunity to represent Team USA. He is reminded of this each and every time he puts on the jersey.
“It means everything to me,” he said. “Every day I get to put on the practice jersey with the USA logo, or the USA jersey, it makes it extra special. I will always cherish this memory and the two years with the program. It seems like such a long time but we are a little over halfway through our first year and it’s moving fast. I want to keep cherishing all the moments.”
One of those special moments for Lucius is international play.
“It’s really special to represent your country,” he said. “It’s such a special feeling when you are with your best friends on the team. It’s really good and so much fun. I really enjoy all the international games; it was such a fun and unique experience.”
Lucius and his Under-17 teammates are coming off a second-place finish at the Five Nations Tournament in Ufa, Russia. The U17s earned wins over the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland, before falling to Russia in their final game.
“It was tough test,” he said. “We were tired by the end; it was a long trip. I think we tried as hard as we could, but we couldn’t get that last win.”
He knows that there are plenty of games left this season and he plans to make the most of it, which includes a call-up to the Under-18 squad late last week. It was his hard work and dedication that make it that much more special.
“I need to keep working on the little things,” said Lucius. “It has worked for me so far and I need to do what I am doing and be the best you can. It’s really extra special to get called up to the U18 team but I can’t settle, I need to keep working.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.