High School

Mike Lundin: Living the dream

By Pete Waggoner

Honing his skills at the local parks and playing numerous game 7’s in neighborhood street hockey games, former Apple Valley Eagle and current Minnesota Wild defenseman Mike Lundin looks to his youth and high school experience as the cornerstone to his development that took him from high school hockey all the way to the National Hockey League.

Lundin reflected on his childhood and remembered watching North Stars and Gopher games with his father. Meanwhile, his memory of high school hockey stretches back even further as he recalled watching the State High School Hockey Tournament while at day care.

It is the exposure to the game from his father and competitive nature of hockey that drew the fire to play hockey from Lundin that still burns in him today.

“My dad would take me skating when I was younger, and from when I was young, I just loved to compete and I loved how competitive hockey was,”  Lundin said. “As soon as I had a stick or was able to go play outdoors, I just never wanted to come in.”

Lundin never played on a B team in Apple Valley and has a pattern of ascending to the highest of levels at an impressive rate. He jumped straight from the Lake Conference and Apple Valley to the Hockey East and Maine Black Bears, to the NHL and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lundin is not a flashy player, yet one with plenty of substance. He always took to the concept of being a younger first-year player on A teams who was pushed by the older second year players. In return, he was able to reciprocate to the younger players the following year.

“For my age group I was always one of the better players but the age group above me that I overlapped every other year had a lot of really talented guys,” Lundin said. “Those were the guys growing up even into high school that were the best players who got the most attention and were going to go on and play Division I.”

Knowing it was big to make the varsity team as a sophomore, Lundin felt the pressure.

“For me, I made it as a sophomore,” Lundin said. “That was the most nerve-racking of the first big nerve-racking experiences. Tryouts were always hard and I was always pretty confident, but making the varsity as a sophomore for me was really important and kind of an accomplishment.  When I made it finally, it was a relief.”

Lundin had a steady sophomore year and advanced on to a junior year he will never forget where he saw his role and minutes increase.

“We had a really good season that year,” Lundin recalled. “We were ranked first in the state most of the year and we were undefeated for a while. We lost one game all year and it was kind of a fluke to Lakeville.”

They would lose again in the section finals that year.  While losing in the section finals stung for Lundin and his teammates, a bigger personal decision loomed for the defenseman and his family. The USHL was calling his name and his decision to stay or go came to the forefront.

“For me, and for most players, I thrive off confidence. If I am confident I am 10 times better of a player,” Lundin opined. “It was a tough decision going into my senior year about playing in the USHL or playing junior hockey but I didn’t want to leave high school.

“I was having a blast and I still am so thankful I stayed because my senior year in high school was one of the best years of my life. Hockey-wise, I gained a lot of confidence. You are not always going to be the go-to guy to try to carry the team on your shoulders. I was able to do that and be a leader and gain that kind of experience and confidence that comes along with it.”

Ironically, Lundin was a state champion in baseball while coming up short in hockey.  Lundin pointed to his time away from hockey and playing other sports to developing himself as an all around athlete.

“I played baseball in the summer so I didn’t play a lot of summer hockey,” Lundin said. “I would contribute my development to being active and always playing sports. It didn’t have to be hockey specific for me. I still think that is a big thing just playing every sport all kinds of sports all the time. It works on your athleticism and everything that goes with it just translates to helping you be a better hockey player.”

Without his experience at Apple Valley with Eagles coach Jerry Hayes, Lundin’s career at Maine may have never happened which led to an 81-game rookie season in the NHL the year after he graduated from college.

Lundin had plenty of good things to say about the staff at Apple Valley and said, “The varsity coaching staff for sure is really good there. They work with you one-on-one and Jerry Hayes, obviously, is a great head coach. Bob Altavilla has been there for a long time. I loved playing for him. He was an awesome guy running the bench. Then, Chris Sikich was fresh out of playing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and came back and worked on one on one things.

They have a good summer program; all the kids have fun and get down to business too. They are really smart hockey guys and they could all coach at a higher level if they wanted to. They are very qualified as high school coaches and they teach well.”

They taught so well that the University of Maine offered Lundin a last-minute scholarship after his senior season in Apple Valley. Like so many Minnesota hockey players, the dream of playing for the Gophers was always in the front of his mind.

Playing at Maine ended up being the perfect scenario for Lundin who was hoping to dress for some of the games  as a true freshman and ended up being a top four defenseman all year long and eventually played in the NCAA National Championship game.

From there, Lundin has gone on to live the dream getting paid to play the game he loves. When looking back on his career, he is well aware the place Jerry Hayes and Apple Valley High School had in his development, not only as a player, but a person.

The dream of playing for the Minnesota Gophers has been eclipsed for Lundin as he laces up his skates for the hometown Minnesota Wild this season.