Former junior hockey player excelling at GVSU
Defenseman Lucas Little brings experience, two-way play style to GVSU hockey (DII)
Many students take the normal route in life from high school to college, but there are others who take the beaten path.
Grand Valley State club hockey (Division II) player Lucas Little is not the typical sophomore at 22 years old. Before he was checking out colleges, he was looking at AAA and North American Hockey League teams to play for.
At a young age, Little had no interest in hockey. His family and friends didn’t watch or play hockey so he had no exposure to the sport.
That all changed one Christmas Day. His grandmother bought him his first pair of skates, CCM Tacks, at 9 years old. That same winter, Little skated for the first time in a local rink and fell in love.
After Little started playing, he began paying attention more to hockey. Living in Traverse City, Michigan, Little had the opportunity to go watch some of the Detroit Red Wings players practice.
“I remember watching some of my favorite players like Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Dominik Hasek,” Little said. “Those players were role models to me when I was younger, so being able to see them play in person was really special.”
But Traverse City was good for more than just seeing the big time players.
“I think Traverse City really helped me develop the basic skills I needed for hockey,” Little said. “I was also fortunate enough to have many great coaches in Traverse City that helped me progress into a better hockey player as I got older.”
Little played for his high school team, Traverse City Central, then moved down state to play Midget Major AAA for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.
While Little may have moved, his family stayed in Traverse City. He stayed with billet families—families who provide junior hockey players with room and board—while he played in AAA and juniors. The billet family would host Little while he played for the season.
“I became very close with all of the families I lived with over the past years, and still talk and interact with them often,” Little said. “They became a second family to me.”
From AAA to juniors, a player has to get drafted. During his senior year, Little said he was watching and listening to the draft at a computer, hoping to hear his name get called.
Once his name was called, Little was excited and his parents were too.
“They were really excited for me,” Little said. “They knew this was something I had been striving to accomplish, so once it was official, they were very proud of me.”
He was drafted by the Port Huron Fighting Falcons in the NAHL. Little said he traveled and lived in different states and he would have only experienced that through playing junior hockey.
Collin Finkhouse, one of Little’s current teammates from the GVSU hockey team who also played AAA and juniors, said they played each other multiple times but Little would always be one of the better players on the team.
“I played against Lucas before juniors and after juniors and he certainly became a much more rounded and better player,” Finkhouse said. “As a person, I didn't know Lucas that well before juniors, but I can say that here at GV he is a great student, hockey player and friend so I would say juniors did a pretty good job of preparing him for the future.”
However, one can’t play in juniors forever. Once a player turns 21 during a season, that will be their last season playing juniors.
Little still hoped to one day play college hockey and Grand Valley State was the right fit.
“The atmosphere around campus was something that really grabbed my attention,” Little said. “Being a criminal justice major, GVSU offers a police academy during the summer on the Allendale Campus and even though I have not yet decided what route I would like to take with my major, the Grand Rapids area has so many resources and opportunities for myself to explore different areas of the criminal justice field.”
Now Little has achieved his goal of playing college hockey. He plays defense for GVSU and aspires to play like defenseman Erik Karlsson of the NHL's Ottawa Senators.
“(Karlsson) is an offensive defenseman that contributes by providing an offensive presence,” Little said “I've always tried to provide an offensive touch for my team, while maintaining a strong defensive core.”
This style of play does not go unnoticed by his teammates, either.
“He can rip the puck and that makes him dangerous from anywhere especially on the power play,” said GVSU's Spencer Craig. “He also has the ability to jump into plays and create offense when gaps open up.”
Being a student athlete, school comes first and Little takes that seriously. Finkhouse said Little had a 4.0 GPA last year.
But some qualities can’t be taught in the classroom or coached on the ice.
“I think, not only myself but all of his friends and teammates would agree that Little will always have your back if you need him, which is a crucial quality when it comes to being not only a teammate but a friend,” Finkhouse said. “Little is a good hockey player, but when it comes to our team, he is a leader that leads by example not only on the ice, but off of it too.”