With seven Tampa Bay Lightning players named to their respective country's Sochi Oympic Games team rosters, it wasn't just the players whose names donned the list. Two Bolts from the medical and equipment staffs also got the call.
Tampa Bay's head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan and head equipment manager Ray Thill were named as part of the support staff for the U.S. Men's Ice Hockey Team.
"Ever since I was a little kid and watching the 1980 'Miracle on Ice' team it's always been a dream to be a part of something like that," said Mulligan. "When Steve Yzerman called and told me USA hockey wanted me to join them it was almost a little surreal and honestly really exciting."
Now in his 11th season with the Lightning, Mulligan is no stranger when it comes to international play, serving as the head athletic trainer for Team USA during the 2008 and 2012 IIHF World Championships in Canada and Sweden/Finland, respectively. Yet for Mulligan every tournament is different and the games in Sochi, Russia will provide an entirely new experience.
"This will be at a whole new level," said Mulligan. "With the Olympics, it's more than just a hockey tournament; it's something the whole world follows."
Mulligan, who spent four seasons with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League prior to joining the Lightning, still revels in the opportunity to get acquainted with those on the cusp of joining or who already roam the NHL.
"You meet different players and different coaches from around the league and as your paths cross over the years you see them and you have that familiarity with them," said Mulligan. "You can still build friendships and exchange 'hellos' when you go into different cities and when they come to your barn, it's pretty neat."
One of the "coolest things" about the invitation to join the support staff for Mulligan is that Thill will be able to share the experience with him on the world stage.
"It is a huge honor to be named to Team USA's support staff for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi." Thill said. "I would like to thank the entire USA Hockey executive team for again giving me the opportunity to represent my country on such a big stage. I look forward to helping Team USA compete for the Gold Medal in Russia."
Thill, also a seasoned veteran of the Bolts, has tested the waters a number of times internationally, serving as the equipment manager for Team USA at the 2008, 2009 and 2012 World Championships in Canada, Switzerland and Finland/Sweden respectively. Thill was also selected to participate at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
"We've worked together the last 11 years here now in Tampa," said Mulligan. "To be able to work on a staff with him at the Olympic Games is going to be pretty special for both of us."
The two will attend orientation camp in August and from there Mulligan says it's all about tracking the players who appear on the final roster and checking-in with those teams for updates in each of their areas of discipline. The two also have the advantage of being side-by-side as they prepare for the Winter Games during the 2013-14 season in Tampa.