Lucia Shares Notre Dame Memories

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Go Gophers! Don Lucia
Go Gophers!
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia played four years of collegiate hockey at Notre Dame.
Go Gophers!
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia played four years (1977-81) at Notre Dame. As a defenseman, he skated in 124 games and totaled 30 points (7g-23a) and 48 penalty minutes. We caught up with Lucia this morning and talked about his time at Notre Dame and what it is like to coach against his alma mater.

GopherSports: What is it like for you coaching against your alma mater?

Don Lucia: It is always special when you get to play your alma mater, but more than that it is an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the country this year. They were in the Frozen Four a year ago and are a very good team again this year. It is a great matchup for our players and a great matchup for our fans.

GS: You are 2-0-0 against Notre Dame as head coach at Minnesota and knocked them out of the NCAA tournament. Does it mean anything more to you to beat your alma mater?

DL: It probably means less in a lot of ways because you want them to have success. But when you are playing against one another you are more worried about your own team than you are about your alma mater in that situation. They are in a different stage in their program today. They have a renewed commitment and Jeff Jackson and their staff have done a terrific job since coming there the last five years. They have been in the Frozen Four a couple times and with their new facility they have really committed to having a top-notch program.

GS: Can you talk about the four years you spent at Notre Dame as a student athlete?

DL: Back when I played, we were all part of the WCHA. It was a great league and was a fun time to be a member of college hockey. I had a great experience. You did not have the top-notch facilities like you see today around college hockey. They were a little more primitive back then, but you did not know any different. For me personally, I had a great educational experience and that is where I grew up. I spent 18 to 22 there and after graduation I was on my path. I got in my car and drove up to Alaska to meet my future wife and start a family and get involved in coaching. It certainly started the path to where I am today.

GS: You played against the Gophers at the old Mariucci Arena. Can you share a memory of playing at Minnesota from your college days?

DS: We had a bunch of Minnesota kids on our team back then, so it was always special to come back and play in the old Mariucci Arena. You always remember that click-clack sound walking up those wooden stairs from the basement and getting onto the ice. Herb (Brooks) was coaching the Gophers then and we had some great games. We won our share and it was a fun time. It was fun for our coach Lefty Smith as well because he was from South St. Paul. I know for him it was a little extra special coming back here as well.

GS: You mentioned your coach Lefty Smith, who we just found out passed away yesterday. What can you tell us about him?

DL: He coached Doug Woog in high school and certainly knew Herb Brooks very, very well and John Mariucci and everyone associated with our program. He went to Notre Dame in 1968 and started the hockey program and built it up to being members of the WCHA. He coached there 19 years and just retired from the university on New Year's Eve. He was running the indoor football facility and was a great man and was somebody that I respected a lot and kept in close contact with over the years. I spoke with him last week and was trying to arrange tickets for a lot of his family members to come to the game on Saturday. It will be a sad day on Saturday that he will not be able to be at the game. Anybody that knew Lefty, loved him.

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