Friday, November 6, 2009

Wranglers forward scores for local food bank

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 | 6 a.m.

When Ned Lukacevic lights the lamp for the Wranglers this season, he'll be scoring a goal for more than one team.

The immediate impact of the forward's goals will be felt on the scoreboard, but the lasting impact will be felt in the hungry stomachs of kids across the Las Vegas area.

Thanks to a charitable proposal made during the team's recent trip to Three Square Food Bank, Lukacevic will donate $10 for each goal he scores this season.

"It's something that touched home with me," said Lukacevic, a native of Podgorica, Serbia. "I thought it would be cool to do. It makes me feel good inside and helps give back to the community. Some kids are underprivileged and their parents don't have enough money to put food on the table. Sometimes, they don't even know where their next meal is coming from."

On Oct. 20, the Wranglers made a day trip to Three Square Food Bank, where they spent the day packing backpacks with food for schools in the Las Vegas area.

It was during that trip when Lukacevic decided on his plan.

"As we were taking the tour, Ned pulled me aside and told me about his plan," Wranglers Vice President Mike Delay said. "I'm thrilled with any kind of donation, because anything these kids get is important."

And while there haven't been many positives on the Orleans Arena ice for the Wranglers, where they're 2-4 this season with 19 goals scored to 33 allowed, off the ice is a different story.

The Wranglers will host a food drive today for the Three Square Food Bank outside of the Orleans Arena beginning at 8 a.m. Any fan that donates five items will receive a free ticket to tonight's game against the Bakersfield Condors in which Lukacevic hopes to score plenty of goals.

Lukacevic's involvement with this food drive is not the first time he has become involved with charity, something he said has interested him since traveling to the Boys and Girls club when he was a teenager.

"I always told myself if I ever had an opportunity to do something like that, it would be something I'd like to do," Lukacevic said.

Three years ago, in Reading, Penn., while playing for the Royals, he began buying season tickets and distributing them to kids who couldn't couldn't afford to go to hockey games.

"I wanted to keep the kids out of trouble, and just to see the looks on their faces, it was great," he said.

Lukacevic hopes to score 50 goals this season, which would mean a donation of $500 to the Three Square Food Bank. That would equates to 1,500 meals for local children.

He's currently tied for the team lead with three goals through eight games.

Las Vegas native Steven Jackson, a running back for the St. Louis Rams, is also involved with Three Square, donating $2,000 for each touchdown he scores.

"Our team has a sense of wanting to give back," Delay said. "They're coming from all over North America and they want to be a part of our community when the needs across the Valley are growing."

For a minor league team entrenched in the community, head coach Ryan Mougenel couldn't be happier about his forward's donation.

"It's huge," he said. "He's a guy with a tremendous heart and he really cares. That's Ned. It's not all about him."

Throughout his hockey career, Mougenel has participated in multiple charities, including Faceoff Against Kids Cancer, a program that gets children with pediatric cancer out of the hospital, pairing them up with a hockey player for a day.

"It's important that the players realize how important they are to the community and the kind of impact they can make," Mougenel said. "This is what I want here, not necessarily the best guys, but the right guys."

Although the 23-year-old Lukacevic nearly made the roster of the Los Angeles Kings after his first training camp, he has since fully embraced the Las Vegas community.

"Now, every goal I score means something for not only the team but every fan watching," he said. "It's good knowing that with each goal I can help feed a child."

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