In a week that will see the Phoenix Coyotes play two of the top four teams in the Western Conference, it is no wonder that fans around the Valley will be paying extra attention to the events at Jobing.com Arena. However, the Coyotes are not the only draw to the arena this week. The Arizona Sting, with a 4-2 record and currently holding second place in the NLL West Division, will host their own marquee match-up on Sunday afternoon when they play host to the Edmonton Rush. For one member of the Sting, having a week filled with hockey and lacrosse action is more than just exciting...it's a way of life.
Arizona Sting forward Lindsay Plunkett may not be Bo Jackson, but he was at one time, a two-sport star. In addition to excelling at lacrosse, Plunkett had a successful junior hockey career, playing at the Major Junior level against some of today's top young NHL players including Colorado Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger, Philadelphia Flyers forward Ben Eager, and Ottawa Senators enforcer Bryan McGratton.
A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Plunkett played for three different teams (Guelph, Oshawa, and St. Mike's) during his tenure in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in the late 1990's. Over the course of his four-year career, Plunkett recorded 186 points (93 goals, 93 assists) 238-games as a right wing. Lindsay points to his junior hockey experience as being a big part of his subsequent success in pro lacrosse.
"Playing in the OHL really taught me how to deal with the highs and lows that come with being an elite athlete," said Plunkett. "I really learned how to handle the pressure and to perform at a high level every single game while playing in that league; and that has definitely carried over into my NLL career.
"Without the discipline and determination I developed through hockey, I wouldn't have become the lacrosse player I am today."
Plunkett also credits the two sports' similarities as being a big part of his on-floor accomplishments with the Sting.
"My hand-eye coordination definitely improved from playing both sports," said Plunkett. "The two sports are pretty similar in a lot of ways in terms of fluidity and rhythm. Unfortunately, my body has taken a beating from playing two contact sports for so many years, but I also learned how to take care of myself and how to deal with the bumps and bruises that are a part of any athlete's life".
In 1998, his first season with the Geulph Storm, Lindsay got the chance to play in the Memorial Cup Finals, losing in overtime to the Portland Winterhawks by a score of 4-3. Seven years later, as a member of the Sting, the rugged six-foot-two, 210-pound forward nearly captured another prestigious title - the NLL Champion's Cup. The Arizona Sting fell to the Toronto Rock in the NLL's championship match on May 14, 2005 by a score of 19-13. Lindsay contributed 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) during the Sting's playoff run that season, a total that placed him fourth on the team in scoring. Plunkett was then traded to the Buffalo Bandits in the summer of 2005, but the Sting re-acquired him on March 14, 2006, a move that came as a welcome surprise for Plunkett.
"I was very surprised but also very happy when I heard I was heading back to Arizona," said Plunkett. "I love playing here - the weather, the fans, and the organization are all fantastic. The Sting have always been dedicated to winning, and that's something I've always respected.
"It's a privilege to play with all of the talented players we have here in Arizona, and I'm looking forward to continuing my career right here in the Valley of the Sun."
Following the trade, Plunkett's point-per-game production rose from 2.57 with the Bandits to 4.0 with the Sting, confirming his status as a go-to forward with dynamic scoring ability and great vision. In the 2006 NLL playoffs, Plunkett tallied 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in two games as Arizona came up just short of earning another shot at a league title. This season, Lindsay thinks the Sting have an excellent shot at bringing a Champions' Cup to Glendale.
"I think we have a great chance at winning it all this year," said Plunkett. "I have never played on a team with so much depth. We've become really close over the last couple of years, but with the group of guys we've got this season, I think we'll be tough for anyone to beat come playoff time.
"There's a good mix of veterans and young guys in the locker room, and everyone knows what it takes to win. It won't be easy, but I know we have what it takes to win the Cup in 2007."
While he was never drafted in the NHL, the former first-round NLL pick is proud to be living out his sports dreams on the floor with the Sting every week.
"I love lacrosse and its great to get the chance to play at such a high level," added Plunkett. "I look forward to each and every game and it's a privilege to be able to play in front of the great fans at Jobing.com Arena."
Lindsay and the rest of the Sting take on the Edmonton Rush at Jobing.com Arena on Sunday, February 18th at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are available by calling (623) 842-GOAL (4625).