Ellen Weinberg-Hughes’ legacy as one of the all-time most accomplished female Jewish athletes is unquestioned. A three-sport (ice hockey, soccer, and lacrosse) athlete at the University of New Hampshire in the 1980s, and later an inductee into the school’s Hall of Fame, Weinberg-Hughes went on to represent the United States at the 1992 Women’s Hockey World Championships, during which she was named a tournament all-star in guiding Team USA to a silver medal.
Several decades later, it turns out her young adult sons are rather gifted athletes, too. All three of them, that is.
When her youngest, Luke, a 19-year-old defenseman less than a week removed from his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, which ended with a loss to Quinnipiac University in the NCAA Frozen Four, suited up alongside his brother, Jack, for the New Jersey Devils on April 11 at the Prudential Center in Newark, Ellen became a mother of three NHL players as the oldest, Quinn, 23, holds down the blue line for the Vancouver Canucks.
That Luke was able to join Jack, a 21-year-old center and bona fide star in the league who has enjoyed a career-defining season, in the Devils’ pursuit for a long-awaited Stanley Cup title, made the development even more meaningful for the family, one that paid homage to their mother’s Judaic background, particularly through Passover celebrations during the boys’ childhood and adolescent years.
Not that Luke, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft (no American family had ever had three siblings drafted in first round of the NHL draft) and arguably the most naturally skilled of the Hughes brothers, ever felt he was riding Jack’s coattails.
“They definitely didn’t pick me fourth overall because of my brother, so I’m my own man,” Luke said the day before making his NHL debut against the Buffalo Sabres and goalie Devon Levi, who, like Hughes, had just made the sudden transition from college to the pros. “The guys have been great, [general manager] Tom Fitzgerald has been great, the coaching staff has been great with me. It’s been very exciting to be in here and I feel I am ready and prepared if they do give me games, or a game, to earn my role.”
Two nights after his NHL debut, the Devils had found themselves down 4-1 to the Washington Capitals before storming back to send the regular-season finale into overtime. Then, in the final seconds of OT, Luke took a pass from Jack, glided into the offensive zone, fired a shot on net, corralled his own rebound, and converted the wraparound goal for his first-ever NHL score. With the 5-4 win over the Caps, the Devils secured their franchise-record 52nd win of the season and a date with Adam Fox and the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As if that weren’t enough of a momentous occasion, the assist from Jack gave Luke’s older brother 99 points on the season, a new club record.
“Your first goal, you never forget,” Luke said in the visitors’ locker room following his milestone. “It was awesome to be out there and with Jacky assisting it, it was pretty cool.”
Your first goal, you never forget. It was awesome to be out there and with Jacky assisting it, it was pretty cool.
While the Stanley Cup playoffs may be all-consuming, for Luke there’s still some lingering bittersweetness over leaving Michigan after his sophomore year. After all, he’s one of the elite prospects in the hockey world—hockey experts rave about the teen’s ability to cut off passing lanes in the defensive zone and defend the rush—and was hoping to catapult Michigan (Quinn also played there last decade) to a national title before flipping to the NHL. But, for the second straight April, Hughes and the Wolverines got ousted in the first round of the Frozen Four, this year to the eventual champion Quinnipiac University Bobcats, and last year to Shui Buium and the eventual champion University of Denver Pioneers.
“It was a really disappointing end to that season; I don’t think we really expected an ending like that, but, at the end of the day, we had such a special group and one game doesn’t define that team,” Luke said, while reflecting on Michigan’s shortcomings and looking ahead to his pro career. “I was super proud of our guys. We did some pretty special things for the culture at Michigan. Winning two Big Ten championships and getting to two Frozen Fours is a big deal. I was just proud of the guys.”
Ultimately, it was hardly a stunner that Luke bolted from Michigan after his second season wrapped. A recent trend in hockey has been for defensemen picked in the first round to leave after their sophomore years and few blue line prospects are as heavily touted as Luke, whose skating and stickhandling skills have long been considered NHL-ready.
As Jack acknowledged following his baby brother’s NHL debut, “I think he had a louder ovation than I did when I was introduced as a rookie [Oct. 4, 2019]. I guess you see where I rank but, man, I’m so proud of him. They eased him into the game, but everyone here knows how special of a player he’s going to be when we’re competing for [the Stanley Cup] the next couple of years and Luke’s 21 or 22 years old.
“He’s going to be a horse for us.”
- David Ostrowsky
- Ellen Weinberg-Hughes
- Ice Hockey
- University of New Hampshire
- 1992 Women’s Hockey World Championships
- University of Michigan
- Quinnipiac University
- NCAA Frozen Four
- Luke Hughes
- New Jersey Devils
- Vancouver Canucks
- Stanley Cup
- Devon Levi
- Buffalo Sabres
- Tom Fitzgerald
- Washington Capitals
- Adam Fox
- New York Rangers
- Denver Pioneers
- Shui Buium