Now in his 10th season in the minors, Colorado Springs native Luke Fulghum still loves coming to the rink, especially one in his home state.
The former college hockey player returned from overseas last season to play for the Central Hockey League's Denver Cutthroats and moved to the Colorado Eagles this fall, where he is having arguably his best ECHL season at age 33.
His success is no surprise to former Colorado College defenseman Arthur Bidwill, a second-year pro for the Eagles.
"He's definitely a veteran who still loves playing," said Bidwill, who has 16 points (13 assists) in 60 games this season. "He is really strong on his stick and has a good shot. He brings it every single day. You can tell he loves coming to the rink."
Fulghum shows little sign of slowing down. Entering Friday's home game, the 5-foot-11, 187-pound right wing has 42 points (24 goals) in 57 contests playing alongside former Denver linemate Kevin Ulanski, with whom he won consecutive NCAA titles in 2004 and 2005. Those 42 points are just short of his ECHL career-best of 43 in 65 games during the 2006-07 season.
"Athletically, those national championship seasons will never be topped," Fulghum said. "Denver was a great experience for me. I cannot say enough about it. I learned so much on and off the ice."
Fulghum played 24 games in the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL, over four seasons and in one exhibition game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That experience and proven offensive production - 510 points in 539 games with 13 pro teams in North America and England - prompted the Eagles to sign him, general manager and coach Chris Stewart said.
Falling shy of the NHL never dampened the former Coronado and Palmer high school student's enthusiasm. He graduated from Colorado Springs Community Prep while he played junior hockey.
He played four seasons in the British Elite Ice Hockey League, which offers imported players free college tuition along with their salary.
Many older players do that to set themselves up for life after hockey.
Fulghum, who holds a bachelors degree in real estate construction management and a masters in international sports management, wasn't ready to hang up his skates.
While he spent much of his adult life out of Colorado, he never forgot his roots in the Springs. After leading the Coventry Blaze to the British title, he jumped at the opportunity to continue playing and bring his wife Sasha, and son Leighton and daughter Irelyn home. The former Junior Tiger's parents live near Monument.
"I was born in Memorial Hospital and grew up playing Colorado Springs youth hockey," he said. "My older brothers were playing and I demanded that my parents let me. I loved it and it has been a big part of my life ever since."