Friday, August 20, 2010

Positive test got Lukin back on right track

If you wanna hang out you’ve got to take her out; cocaine.
If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine.
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie; cocaine.
— Cocaine, by J.J. Cale
Daily News Sports Editor
It was a chilly day in November 2006 when the phone rang.
At the time, Jarret Lukin had no idea the impact the call from U of Calgary athletic director Don Wilson would have on his life.
Wilson was calling to tell Lukin, a former captain of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers who now was a sophomore with the Dinos, that he had flunked a drug test and that he was being suspended for two years by Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.
Lukin’s drug of choice? Cocaine.
“It was one of the toughest days of my life, not only for me but my family,” Lukin said Thursday while kicking back in a local coffee shop. “There’s no excuse for something like that.”
Jarret Lukin? Cocaine? That had to be the reaction of anyone who had gotten to know him during his four-plus seasons with the Blazers.
Jarret Lukin? The kid who was born with a smile on his face? The young man who, when seeing you at the rink, always said: “Hey, how’s it going?”
Jarret Lukin? Who always left everything he had on the ice?
That Jarret Lukin?
Yes, that Jarret Lukin.
“I was curious,” Lukin, 26, says, adding that he had done cocaine “no more than a handful of times” before he tested positive.
“Those kinds of things are around,” he adds, “and not only to hockey players. I guess I just got caught up in it. I was curious. I tried it. And I tried it again. And I got caught.”
The last time was at a party on Oct. 31, 2006.
“A Tuesday,” he remembers. “I got tested on Friday. I got a call about two weeks later.”
He looks at the ceiling.
“Everything kind of came crashing down. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t get caught . . . I can’t predict that.
“Since then, though, things have gone well.”
Lukin is back in Kamloops these days, for the first time in four years, helping out at the Peter Puck Hockey School. And, although he says he doesn’t think a whole lot about what happened any more, he felt the urge to let people in these parts know exactly what had happened almost four years ago. He wants people to know that he wasn’t — and isn’t — some drug-addicted stoner.
He’s Jarret Lukin. Always has been. Always will be.
“I haven’t changed,” he says. “I’m over it. I know it was a mistake. I didn’t see it coming. It’s not like it was something I was doing my whole life. It just happened.”
Yes, it did. And if he hadn’t been tested . . .
Lukin looks at the ceiling . . .
“You could say . . . maybe I was headed the wrong way . . . I don’t know,” he says. “But I’ve always been the same guy. We all make mistakes . . . I got caught.”
The toughest thing, he says, is knowing what he did to his family — his mom (Jo-Ann), dad (Jay) and sister (Jolene).
“I feel for them the most,” he says. “I knew inside that I could get through it. Thankfully, I have such a good family. My mom, dad and sister were there for me.
“It was tough for my teammates, too. My folks and my best friends were there for me. I got a lot of calls. I had a very good support group.”
After the dust cleared a bit, the options were to continue at school for two years without playing hockey, or look elsewhere. Except that not playing hockey wasn’t an option to him.
“I was having a great year, too, that second year,” Lukin says, more than a little ruefully. “I had a very good year the first year; the second year I was on fire when I got caught.”
So he started looking. Earlier in his career, he had taken part in Making the Cut, a hockey-based reality show that was taped in Vernon, where he had met Scott McWilliam, who had some contacts. McWilliam made some calls and . . .
“Shortly after that I went to Florida and turned things around,” Lukin says. “I took a good look in the mirror and said, ‘That’s not me.’ ”
He caught on with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades and, when Lukin’s suspension became common knowledge, their management stood behind him.
“They had my back right from the start,” Lukin says, adding that head coach Malcolm Cameron was especially supportive.
“He told me we all have skeletons in our closet and we all make mistakes and that it’s how we respond,” Lukin says. “They were behind me. Thank goodness for that.”
Lukin played in Florida through 2007-08 when he was dealt to the Dayton Bombers, who were coached by Bill McDonald, a veteran of the minor league wars. Dayton folded after 2008-09 and McDonald caught on as an associate coach — the head coach is former WHLer Dwight Mullins — with the Allen Americans, a Central Hockey League expansion team situated 25 miles north of Dallas. Former NHL defenceman Steve Duchesne is one of the owners.
“(McDonald) brought a few of us to Allen,” says Lukin, who captained the Americans in their inaugural season. “He brought the right guys. That’s why we did so well.”
The Americans lost to the Rapid City, S.D., Rush in the championship final. It went six games, with the Rush winning Game 6, 4-3, in double OT.
Lukin had 32 points in 47 regular-season games and added 14 points in 20 playoff games.
“Most likely I will go back to Allen,” he says of his plans for the upcoming season. “It worked out pretty well there.”
It’s easy tell that Lukin is comfortable in his own skin again. That smile is back, if it ever was gone, although he knows the spectre of his mistake always will be there.
“I’ve been over it for a while,” he says, “but there were a few times where it was brought up and I’d look back and say, ‘Did I really do that?’ ”
And there’s a woman in his life.
While in Florida, he met Christine Johnstone, a Canadian who was going to school in Boca Raton on a tennis scholarship. She has since graduated and, Lukin says, “has applied for medical school.”
So . . . this is serious?
Lukin’s face lights up as he replies: “She’s the love of my life. It’s only a matter of time.”
Lukin is happy playing in Allen. He’s got Christine. And he’s thrilled to be helping Dianna Hartnell — she called and got him to come back — and Kerry Gannon at the hockey school.
“I love Kamloops,” Lukin says. “It feels so good to be back. Dianna and Kerry have been unbelievable. Just to come out and give back to this place . . . not being back in a few years made me miss it a lot. I plan on coming back more often.”
Of course, Lukin can’t leave the coffee shop without asking about the Blazers. He finished his WHL career with the Medicine Hat Tigers, but was here long enough to experience four first-round playoff exits.
“We made the playoffs every year,” he says. “But it was frustrating. It’s gotta be frustrating to the entire city. This city was used to winning. I believe, and I’m sure the alumni believe, they’ll turn this thing around sometime.”
A smile on his face, Lukin heads out the door. As he leaves, he looks back over a shoulder and makes one request.
“Wish the Blazers good luck for me,” he says.


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