The flag will fly at half-mast today at HBIC for a very good reason. If you're a regular reader of Uni Watch like I am, you already know that Paul Lukas, author of the blog and ESPN contributor, lost his father over the weekend. Irwin William Lukas was a sports-loving New Yorker who encouraged his son in all his endeavours, and it was Paul who encouraged me to start this blog as a way to get my hockey thoughts out to the world after I clogged up his board with my hockey banter. I never would have expected my readership to grow like it has, and, after nearly 200,000 site visits later, I really feel the need to say thank you to Paul for his suggestion. While this piece may come thirteen days too early as Father's Day doesn't occur until June 21 this year, this is a little piece on all our dads. More on Paul's dad below this inspirational story of a hockey star who lost her dad before the most important time in her life.
Back in 1998 before the Nagano Olympic Games, Danielle Goyette was preparing for the first-ever Women's Olympic Ice Hockey Competition with Team Canada. Goyette was a leader for Team Canada, having participated in a number of international events over the previous four years while representing her country. She was about to leave Vancouver on an airplane when she called home.While the story above is significantly different than what Paul may be going through, the fact of the matter is that Mr. Irwin Lukas was just as proud of Paul's achievements and endeavours as Mr. Henri-Paul Goyette was of Danielle's achievements and endeavours.
The news was bad. Her father, suffering with Alzheimer's Disease, had taken a turn for the worse. Mr. Henri-Paul Goyette, Danielle's father, was an avid hockey fan and followed his daughter's pursuits anytime she took to the ice. Tracy Wilson, Goyette's close friend and teammate, indicated that she would rather return home to St-Nazaire, Quebec to her ailing father's bedside than head to Nagano, Japan.
"Her father was such a big hockey fan," Wilson told Jim O'Leary of SLAM! Sports. "He always talked to her about her hockey. Even when he was sick, he always remembered that."
Two days before the Opening Ceremonies, Goyette broke the news to Canadian head coach Shannon Miller. Uttering the words had a devastating effect on Goyette as she broke down in tears while telling Miller. Miller and Goyette talked for four hours, and the coach left the decision up to Goyette as to what she wanted to do. The next day, Goyette informed her coach that she was ready to play.
Goyette and Team Canada squared off against a seriously undermatched Japanese squad in the first game. It was Goyette who stole the show as she scored three times and added an assist in a 13-0 victory over the host Japanese team. While the speech that Shannon Miller gave was inspirational, Goyette's inspiration came from an entirely different place.
While Canada did not win the gold medal in Nagano in 1998, Henri-Paul Goyette was with his daughter every step of the way in helping her win the silver medal. Goyette led the tournament in goals with eight. While she has never publicly stated it, there had to be a few assists in there from Mr. Goyette.
As Paul stated, "Pop loved Uni Watch. He read the site regularly, occasionally sent me feedback, and was a charter member. I’d forgotten about that last bit until we were going through his wallet over the weekend and found his membership card."
Much like Mr. Goyette speaking proudly about Danielle during his struggles with Alzheimer's, Mr. Lukas was a contributing member of Uni Watch and proud of the work Paul was doing right up to the end of his battle. That is the sign of a proud father, and that needs to be said.
Paul, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you and yours nothing but the best in this difficult time, and your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Be safe, be strong, and honour his memory as best you can. As men, we're told that crying is a sign of weakness, but losing a friend and mentor like Irwin William Lukas can only be met with grief and sadness.
If you need a hand with anything, please ask. You are an inspiration to me, and, in turn, so is your dad. For my readers, if you feel you'd like to wish Paul your best, click here and add a comment for Paul during this difficult time.
Rest peacefully, Irwin Lukas, for all eternity.
Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Mr. Lukas.