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Where Are They Now: Luke Lockhart Olympic Hopeful

Former Thunderbird Luke Lockhart has taken to the ice in China with hopes of competing in the 2022 Olympics.

Brian Liesse

Luke Lockhart played for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2008-09 through 2012-13 seasons. He was drafted in the 2007 bantam draft in the seventh round by the Thunderbirds and would never play for another team in the Western Hockey League. The 5’10”, 180 pound center played in 345 games with the Thunderbirds and was the captain of the team 2011 through his overage season in 2013. He was a gritty two-way player who never took a shift off. Luke’s best season in Seattle saw him net 49 points with 25 goals and 24 assists.

Unfortunately the Thunderbirds went through a few very rough seasons while Luke was there, missing the playoffs three straight years in a row. In his final season though, the Thunderbirds returned to the playoffs as the seventh seed and earned a matchup with the second seeded Kelowna Rockets. Seattle went 24-38-7-3 that year and Kelowna went 52-16-3-1. The Thunderbirds had no business being in this series but what would follow was one of the best seven game series in Thunderbirds history.

Five of the seven games were decided in overtime. Luke Lockhart scored four goals including two game tying goals and one overtime winner. Seattle got out to a 3-0 lead in the series, the Rockets stormed back and won the next four, it wasn’t easy for them as the final two games went to overtime before Seattle would succumb. This was how Luke Lockhart’s Western Hockey League career would end, in a series that was as scrappy as the player himself. They might not have won but they gave the Rockets all they could handle, Kelowna would get swept in the following round by the Kamloops Blazers.

The following year Lockhart would become a Thunderbird again, this time enrolling at the University of British Columbia. He played four years there and was remarkably consistent scoring nine goals in each of his four seasons, in his best season he posted 14 assists to go with his nine goals. In his final year at the University of British Columbia Luke played with another former Seattle Thunderbird captain, Jerret Smith. The two had also spent one year playing together in Seattle.

Rich Lam

Per Karin Larsen of CBC News, shortly after Lockhart finished college he got a call from friend and former Tri-City American Zach Yuen.

Yuen informed Lockhart that there was an opportunity to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for the Kunlun Red Star, based in Beijing, China. Lockhart tried out at a Chinese hockey talent identification camp in Burnaby, British Columbia and impressed the team enough that he was signed to a three year deal with the Red Star. Lockhart will most likely spend the first two seasons of the deal with the minor league affiliate of the Red Star, and in his third year get a shot to develop his game further with the big league club.

The coach of the Red Star is former Vancouver Canucks head coach Mike Keenan, who conveniently also has a role developing talent for the Chinese Olympic hockey team. Chinese officials are trying to grow the game and have started recruiting Chinese players or players with Chinese roots including Lockhart, Yuen, and former National Hockey League player Brandon Yip. The goal of this development program is for the players to grow enough that they can play for Team China in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

With any luck, Lockhart will get to live an Olympic dream just like former Thunderbirds Marcel Noebels (Germany) and Rob Klinkhammer (Canada) are doing with their respective teams during this current Olympics and when he’s greeted by the fans I hope they yell, “LUUUUUUKKKKEEEEEEE!”