Judson excited to play in Bay area

Lucas Punkari

Although he spent a lot of time mulling his decision, there was one main reason why Emo native Luke Judson chose to leave the Lakehead Thunderwolves’ hockey team last week and join the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls for the 2013-14 season.
“I had one year in the books for my education there, and I knew that it was going to be a long haul, but I knew that I wanted to give pro hockey a try,” the 22-year-old forward noted.
“I didn’t want to start my kick at the can when I was 26 years old, so that’s what it more or less came down to,” he reasoned.
The opportunity to suit up for the Bulls this coming season came together over the last couple of weeks, which coincided with the addition of his new representation in former NHL players Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker.
“The Bulls’ head coach [Pat Curcio] remembered me from when I played for Belleville while he was the assistant coach of the London Knights and he wanted to work quickly, which was okay with us,” Judson explained.
“It was a tough decision to make and I put some time into that, so it would have been quicker if it wasn’t for me deciding what I wanted to do,” he added.
One of the things that impressed Judson most was how quickly Curcio, who also serves as the team’s president and director of hockey operations, got back to him to tell him all about the Bulls’ program.
“I was talking to Shayne on a Friday and I said, ‘If this is an option, I would like to talk to the coach,’ and he told me that if he had some time, I could talk to him during the next week,” Judson recalled.
“I think I had my phone in my pocket for about 30 seconds, and Pat was calling me to tell me all about the program and how excited he would be if I could make it out there.
“With him already knowing the kind of player I am, and with what he expects out of me, it makes me a little more comfortable about going down there as I won’t be sitting on the bench and I’ll be able to jump in right in.”
While the chance to play in the pro ranks excited him, Judson had to decide if he wanted to leave the Thunderwolves’ program, where he was third in team scoring in his freshman campaign with 22 goals and 13 assists.
“The education aspect was huge as I wouldn’t have gone to Lakehead if I didn’t think that was important,” stressed Judson, who was majoring in commerce.
“I also had a lot of relationships that I had developed while I was there with the whole board of directors, the coaching staff, and everyone else at Lakehead, so it was tough to tell some of them.
“I could tell that a lot of them were fairly disappointed about my final decision, but they handled it with class and I hope that I can keep my relationships from there and across the city going in the future,” he added.
One of the biggest things Judson is excited about when he heads to San Francisco this fall is the fact the ECHL season is a lot longer than what his schedule was with the Thunderwolves last winter.
“It’s a 72-game season in the ECHL while in CIS we had a 28-game schedule this year, along with a few exhibition games,” he noted.
“From a development aspect, I want to have that full season of games to get all of the ice time that I can,” Judson said.
“And from what I have heard, it’s three lines with 10 forwards playing every game.
“Anyone who will be it the lineup will be playing a lot.”
The Bulls, who finished in eighth place in the ECHL’s Western Conference last season, are entering their second year of operation and are an affiliate of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
Having been part of a pair of prospect camps with the Sharks’ in 2009 and 2010, Judson admitted it was a bit of a coincidence that the Bulls were affiliated with a team he has a previous connection with.
“It just so happened that the Sharks are the main affiliation with the Bulls,” he noted.
“One of the good things, though, about my situation is that instead of only being called up to Worcester [the Sharks’ AHL affiliate] and then to San Jose if you a Sharks’ draft pick, I can be called up by any team since I am a free agent signee by the Bulls.
“That’s a pretty neat opportunity,” he enthused.
Another thing Judson is looking forward to is playing hockey in California during the winter months after spending the last few years residing in Belleville and Thunder Bay.
“There are a number of people who say they want to make the trip out there, and my parents won’t have to be trekking out to Thunder Bay every two weeks, so they might make a little vacation out of it,” he remarked.
“I was looking at the schedule already and while I was expecting to play in warm weather, my first two games are going to be in Alaska, so that should be fun,” he joked.
Although his main focus over the next couple of months will be off-ice training and some on-ice sessions in either Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, Judson already has his goals in mind when he travels to San Francisco in September.
“I just want to go there and have no regrets when I’m done,” he said.
“I don’t know if I am going to be a guy that will jump right in and start lightning the lamp, though I am hoping that is the case.
“But if that doesn’t happen, I just want to do what I can for the team and make sure that when I leave, whenever that is, that I have no regrets,” Judson added.
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