Lightning defenseman Mike Lundin registered 13 points in his 49 games at the NHL level during the 2009-10 season.
Mike Lundin was just trying to stay focused. After all, the journey from Florida’s Gulf Coast to just below the Northern border is capable of taking a severe toll on the body just as much as an NHL 82-game season. Through the mental exhaustion, however, of nearly 14 hours behind the wheel and approximately 1,400 miles in front of his eyes, the Lightning defenseman became aware of the similarities between his self-proclaimed least favorite activity and his uncontested true love.
Mike Lundin hates sitting in cars for extended periods of time. He loves hockey. This wasn’t the first time he had made the trek from his temporary home in Tampa Bay to his permanent off-season residence in Minnesota.
“It probably won’t be the last either,” Lundin said. “A lot of back and forth.”
Whether from Tampa Bay to the Twin Cities in a car, from the bench to the ice and back again during each and every shift change, or from being called up from Norfolk to being sent back down only for the cycle to repeat, it’s apparent that two activities seemingly distinct in nature aren’t so different after all.
The drive from central Florida to eastern Minnesota can be daunting. So can playing hockey on the world’s biggest stage that will attempt to set an attendance world record. Yet, that is exactly where Lundin will be on May 7 when the blue trim on his jersey will be swapped with red and white rather than black and silver, as he represents Team USA at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.
“We’re not really there yet, but I’m both excited and nervous,” the Burnsville, Minnesota native said. “I never played in World Juniors or anything like that, and I’ve never had the opportunity to represent the United States, but I am ready to see what international hockey is all about.”
On Thursday, it was officially announced that Lundin had been chosen to participate in the tournament, to be held in Germany from May 7 to May 23. Although he had heard rumors regarding the strong possibility of earning a roster spot, the reward didn’t come to fruition until he was notified in person on Monday.
“I was very surprised,” Lundin added. “To see [teammate Ryan] Malone with the United States equipment on during the Olympics was pretty exciting. It’s kind of a dream as a kid to be able to wear the jersey.”
Lundin concluded the 2009-10 regular season as one of the Lightning’s hottest players, recording a career-high four-game point streak through the last week of March and registering three points in his final three games. Using Team USA’s recent Olympic run to the Gold Medal Game as motivation, Lundin expects a lot from himself, as he does the team, to continue to grow USA Hockey into one of the world’s most consistent and competitive outfits.
“I hope to continue my success from the season, but whatever we can do would be huge,” Lundin said. “I would definitely like to surprise some teams and follow in the Olympic team’s footsteps. That would be a great story.”
There will be adjustments to be made. Lundin said it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the measurements and nuances of the international rinks, as well as some of the unfamiliar players who compete in the international leagues instead of the NHL. Most of all, though, Lundin is looking forward to potentially playing against some of his very own Lightning teammates.
“Being it’s the first time, I think it will be a little strange, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I might have a little extra fun with them when there’s a puck in the corner and we’re both battling along the boards. You have to really watch out for that Steve Downie guy though, that’s for sure.”
Rather than the likes of Downie, Lundin will be skating alongside American teammates Kyle Okposo, Ryan Potulny, Matt Gilroy and Brandon Dubinsky among others.
Somewhere in Iowa is where it finally hit Lundin; the realization that red traffic lights require a lot less effort at which to stop than a patented one-timed slap shot from the reigning Richard Trophy winner Steven Stamkos, who Lundin could potentially be assigned to defend if the United States were to meet Canada. Then it came to him that he would be going through the same motions about three weeks from now as he adjusted his positioning in the driver’s seat.
“I’m on cruise control, just trying to stay focused, trying to stretch the legs, trying to get some blood flowing.”
The revelation was sudden, but yet it came as no surprise to Lundin that he would be doing it all over again, except this time in a much more favorable setting next month.