In the fall of 1999 a handsome boy with chubby cheeks and soulful brown eyes stepped on to the ice for only a second time. Wearing a blue, orange and white Tim Hortons jersey, his tiny gloved hands gripped a beginners’ skating sled to help support two wobbly little legs unused to the slippery surface. He looked tentatively up into the stands at Rosedale Area, a hint of trepidation reflected in his adorable face. His proud mom quickly snapped a photo, commemorating forever the milestone in her young son’s life. A white sticker affixed to the top of is black safety helmet told coaches and other skaters his name. It was Luke.

Luke Michael Zupan, the only son of Nick and Suzanne; dear big brother to Lauren. A lot more people would soon come to know that name. After Luke’s start on the ice at Rosedale, he continued to grow up in Hamilton’s hockey circles, earning respect and admiration from fans and teammates, classmates and adults. After starting his hockey career at Rosedale, Luke moved to Lawfield, played for the Hamilton Reps, the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Stoney Creek Warriors and the Ancaster Avalanche. He also played rep soccer for Mount Hamilton Avalanche, and donned the colours of the St. Thomas More Knights on both the soccer field and in the arena. Hockey shaped Luke’s character, and in turn, he shaped others. Luke was a leader on and off the ice. He made sure everyone felt welcome, he was big fan of the underdog, he brought smiles and he inspired others. Wherever he went for the next 15 years, Luke’s charismatic personality allowed him to make lasting friendships. 

Take, for example, this tweet: “To me, the best people to be around are the ones who are nice, make you a bigger priority than themselves and who can always put a smile on people’s faces…Luke was all of those things.”

Or these comments from his Ancaster Avalanche teammate Owen Burnell: “I always admired the type of leader Luke Was. He wasn’t the most vocal leader, but he knew when to speak and when not to, and I think that’s one of the most effective traits a leader can have…”

Or this email to the Zupan family: “Luke certainly touched many people., both old and young alike. These past few days I could get a sense of all the love and admiration that everyone felt for him. And because of how much influence Luke had on so many people, I believe he will continue to live inside of them…”

The little boy who got his start on the ice at Rosedale played his final hockey game on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. He captained the Ancaster Avalanche to a two-game sweep in the season-opening Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Showcase. Luke died three days later, on Sept. 16. He was 20 years old.

Excerpts from article by Debra Downey-Senior Editor for Ancaster  News and Dundas Star news