By Buddy Pinkston
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
DULUTH, Ga. – Unlike his paradoxical name, Mike Vigilante’s speed was no birthright. The Gladiators forward had to earn his blazing skates.
At age 6, he was taking power-skating classes, which continued through his youth hockey years in Dearborn, Mich.
By 14, when he realized he wasn’t going to grow big enough to muscle guys around, Vigilante increased his speed training to separate himself from the pack of under-6-footers.
At Lake Superior State University, he intensified the off-ice strength work. Now 24 and in his fourth pro season, Vigilante keeps pushing himself to get faster.”I’ve put a lot of years into working on my speed,” Vigilante said. “I had good teachers and coaches at a young age, and speed has been a strength for me ever since.”
He’s also learned that fleet feet can take a player only so far.
“You’ve got to be in control,” he said. “Very seldom do you ever go as fast as you can anyway. You might go five or six games in row without ever going full speed. These guys are smart. They’ll have you blowing right past the puck.”
But the quickness is always there when the Gladiators need it.
“I realized early on,” Vigilante said, “that if I’m not using my legs, I’m not helping my team.”
Never has he helped a team the way he’s helping the Gladiators this year. Vigilante is having his best season as a scorer; he’s second on the team with 21 goals, including a team-high four game-winners. With 21 games left in the regular season, he has 41 points, 11 more than his previous season high.