Oilers’ Nathan Lutz Ready for Ice, Farm

GTR Sports Writer

VETERAN STAR: Nathan Lutz, 37, is the Tulsa Oilers defenseman, captain and bellwether. Starting his third season in Tulsa and 15th as a pro, he has played in 138 games for the home team with 14 goals, 58 assists, 204 penalty minutes and a plus-32 rating. Lutz plans to retire following the 2015-16 campaign.

Courtesy TUlsa Oilers

His icy glare can penetrate the soul and strike fear in the hearts of most tough guys roaming free in the . His demeanor can intimidate even the bravest warriors on ice. But despite bashing baddies and using his physical presence to control the game, Nathan Lutz is no monster. Far from it. There is still a softer, gentler side to the Tulsa Oilers defenseman, captain and bellwether.

“I couldn’t do what I’ve done in my career without my family. They are my biggest supporters,’’ says Lutz, who at 37 is the oldest and perhaps wisest player on the Oilers’ roster. “One of my favorite parts of the game, a ritual that I started, is when they see me and blow me kisses during pregame warmups. That makes me feel so good. I use the butt end of my stick to draw hearts on the glass, and I see their faces light up. I want to go out and do my best for them.’’

Lutz may have a gruff and scary exterior, but inside he’s all family man. Wife Kayla, four-year-old daughter, Abby, and one-year-old son, Brooks, are indeed his biggest fans. They’re in a club that includes most Oilers followers.

Starting his third season in Tulsa and 15th as a pro, the 6-1, 230-pound native of Mistatim, Saskatchewan, has played in 138 games for the home team with 14 goals, 58 assists, 204 penalty minutes and a plus-32 rating. Lutz has toiled in eight different pro leagues and said he’s ready to retire following the 2015-16 campaign.

The iron man plans on leaving Tulsa, the Winnipeg Jets’ farm team, to work on a real farm back home. Lutz spends the off season laboring on his grandfather’s and father’s 2,500 acre plantation and doing stucco work with a friend. Lazy he is not. Winning hockey championships is secondary only to providing for his family.

“As soon as the season is over, I help cultivate and get the seeds in the ground,’’ says Lutz, who raises wheat and oats on the family land that goes back four generations to his great-grandfather, an Austrian immigrant who homesteaded the property.

“I get up from five to seven every morning. Working on the farm is really not a summer vacation, but that’s the plan (after retiring from hockey). I grew up on the farm working every summer, and I come from a small town with good family values. I always wanted to play hockey, and my family (and community) has always supported me.’’

Also supporting Lutz are the Oilers and their fans. He’s been a defensive force along the blue line and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down due to his advancing age. R-e-s-p-e-c-t is his middle name. He commands it and receives it from teammates and opponents alike.

“I take pride in being a leader. I don’t have to have a letter on my jersey to be one,’’ Lutz says. “It’s not just on the ice but how you carry yourself off the ice with people in the community. It’s how you represent yourself to younger players. I want to be able to help them to be the best they can be.’’

This season, Lutz is playing under a new coach in Jason Christie, but his role will still be the same. He will lead on and off the ice and anchor the Oilers’ efforts to win its first championship.

“I knew of him (Christie) 14 years ago when I played against his Peoria team,’’ Lutz remembers. “He conducts probably the hardest (preseason) camp I’ve ever been a part of in my career. He’s very demanding, and it’s a big change from what we’ve done before.

“It’s tough to say what kind of season we will have. Soon, he will become the winningest coach in this league and when you come to the rink, he demands your best. I know we will have good speed and play an uptempo game. We will be physical and get in your face. I think we will be an all-around good team.’’

Lutz says he loves to win but hates to lose more. Toward that end, he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to make his final season with the Oilers memorable.

“I’ve never been the most talented player, but I do what I can to help the team,’’ he says. “If that means fighting every once in a while, I will do what I have to do. Being tough is more than fighting, it’s being mentally tough.

“Farming is no joke. It’s mentally strenuous because there is adversity in farming just like in hockey. You work 15- to 18-hour days, and there are things (like weather) that are not in your control. You’ve got to be both mentally and physically tough.’’

Through hard work and refusing to give up, Lutz has learned how to win whether in a wheat field or a hockey rink. This macho honcho has become philosophical about life, realizing there are no guaranteed tomorrows. Love your family and love the game today. Enjoy what you have now, be thankful and persevere.

“I’ve won championships, and I would love to win another one,’’ he says. “I had a goal to play in the , but I made a lot of mistakes and I can’t look back. I could have worked harder, but if I played at a higher level, I might not still be playing. My wife helps me focus on the now. Yesterday is gone. All I can do is be the best person and hockey player I can be.’’

Lutz says he has made a commitment to his family to retire to the farm, and many emotions are running through his mind. He’s excited and admittedly a little scared. He says he wants to “go out with a bang’’ and that could mean bad news for Tulsa foes on ice.

No matter if Lutz’s gaze makes opponents’ blood run cold, no matter if he’s crashing opponents into the boards or drawing hearts and blowing kisses to his kids, he has a passionate soul, and Oilers fans consider themselves better for it.

Updated 10-26-2015

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