Son joins dad on Gophers

New Hampshire and Notre Dame also had Tony Lucia’s interest.

Chris Lempesis

For a lot of high school graduates, college is a welcome chance to get as far away from their parents as possible.

Tony Lucia went a different way.

The freshman forward is the eldest son of the man he sometimes has to call coach. He decided to pass up offers from other schools and play for Minnesota’s men’s hockey team – the team coached by his father, Don Lucia.

“I don’t know if it was as much as he wanted to play for Minnesota as much as he wanted to play for his dad,” Don Lucia said. “I think that’s what it came down to.”

Senior defenseman Mike Vannelli – who played for his father at Cretin-Derham Hall High School – said the experience is certainly not something every father and son gets to have.

The younger Lucia’s decision was not as cut-and-dry as it would seem for either party.

Both father and son had their respective trepidations regarding the idea.

For the father, it was just wanting to make sure it was entirely his son’s decision to play for Minnesota, to the point where he said he wouldn’t even recruit him.

“If you want to come here, you can come here,” he told his son. “But if you find something that you think will be better for you, then that’s what you should do.”

For the son, who said he always thought he would jump at the chance to play for his dad without a second thought, it was the concept of the whole, as he put it, “dad-being-your-coach thing.”

Included in that concept, Tony said, was the possibility of having less respect in the locker room because of the situation.

“I tossed and turned many nights in bed over this issue,” Tony said. “I was pretty close (to maybe playing somewhere else).”

In the end, though, Tony said he chose to play for the Gophers – had he gone somewhere else, he said it probably would’ve been New Hampshire or his father’s alma mater, Notre Dame – for the academics and the chance to play for a team that’s “always there at the end of the year.”

Now that the son is here, the father has to worry about the issue of favoritism. So far, at least, the father said he doesn’t think it’s been a problem.

“I talked to the captains about that on Monday and they think I’ve done a good job handling that,” Don said. “I sent good messages to the team and the players by sitting him out early.”

Tony was scratched for last Saturday’s game against Wayne State.

And, so far, Tony said he hasn’t been treated negatively by anyone in the locker room with regard to the situation, a little friendly ribbing from some teammates aside.

But what about those who say Tony is only here because of who his father is?

Tony’s response: “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.”

“I just have to look past it,” Tony, an All-Star in the prestigious United States Hockey League last season, added. “Because I know that I was recruited for a reason and I’m here because of what I have to bring to the table.

“All my ice time is because I’ve earned it and that’s the way I want it to be.”