As the start of the 2016/17 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) inches closer, Crossfield’s Lukas Pollock is well prepared for what will be his final year of competitive hockey with the Airdrie Thunder.
After the Thunder was swept in four straight games in the HJHL North Division finals by the Mountainview Colts in March, Pollock said he wasn’t sure if he had played his final competitive hockey game. He said it was something he was considering with one more year of Junior B eligibility left.
“It wasn’t the way the season ended that made me not want to come back,” he said. “I had an option (to play or retire) last season. This year I don’t.”
Pollock took the summer to mull over the decision.
Although the final decision to return was Pollock’s, he said friends and family helped with the process.
“My girlfriend wanted to see me play hockey for one more year,” he said. “My dad and mom were supportive and said whatever I decided to do, they were going to stand by me.
“Everyone made an impact on (my decision to return).”
The 21-year-old made the call for one more season.
“My decision to not come back was that I wanted to work and get my life going,” Pollock said.
But now that the season is right around the corner, the defenceman said he is more excited to get back out on the ice than ever.
The return of Pollock will be a welcome addition for the Thunder, a team filled with veterans from last season. Even with the departure of long-time players Dane Gallant, Parker Georgsen and Mark Kunitz, Pollock said he expects the team to pick up where it left off. Last season was the first year the team made it to the division finals since the 2008/09 season.
“Looking back (at division finals) made me more excited for what our team will look like this year,” Pollock said.
In his first year with the Thunder last season, he enjoyed his best season offensively, netting five goals and adding 24 assists for 29 points, which led all rearguards on the team.
He said playing some of his most prominent developmental hockey years in Airdrie, and now getting the opportunity to conclude his career in the same city, is a privilege.
With a chance to help the Thunder become one of the top teams in the HJHL, Pollock said he is ready to take this last season head on and achieve something he set out to do in 2015.
Pollock said he wants to finish his career on the ultimate high and walk away from the sport with a HJHL Championship.
“I like (playing in Airdrie). I know a lot of people around Airdrie and Crossfield, having those people come out and watch you play is always special,” he said. “The town had our back last year and I hope it’s the same story this year.”