Every week leading up to October 13, the Rookie Round-Up will give ECHL fans the chance to get to know a rookie who has signed with an ECHL team for the 2017-18 season. This week, the ECHL spoke with Jimmy Mullin of the Kalamazoo Wings. Mullin signed with the K-Wings for the 2016-17 season, but an injury during training camp sidelined him for the entire year. He’s eagerly awaiting and preparing for his first professional game – get to know him in this Q&A!
Name: Jimmy Mullin
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
ECHL Team: Kalamazoo Wings
2016-17 Organization: Kalamazoo Wings (injured)
ECHL: You've had a year of experience around the Kalamazoo Wings and the community. What have you learned about this community in that time?
Jimmy Mullin: The Kalamazoo area is a very hard working area. They have a lot of teams to choose from - the Western Michigan Broncos football team was really good, the Western Michigan hockey team was really good. So it's our job to help out our team and the marketing department and go out and show everybody that ‘Hey - we're in town too!’ I feel like our team as a whole, our Coaching Staff and Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster Joe Roberts did a great job of getting involved. Going to community events was something I enjoyed, especially since I was injured. I especially enjoyed the events with kids, so I’m happy that I was able to be a part of them.
ECHL: All your hard work in the community earned you the Team's Community Service Award last season. What did that mean to you? Even though you hadn't played any games yet as a K-Wing, the community and the team still recognized you for all of your off-ice contributions.
JM: I appreciated it a lot. I remember when I got hurt in training camp, Coach Bootland stayed in the hospital with me, literally from start to finish. Understanding that hockey is just a kid's game and we're adults being able to play it, it kind of puts things in perspective. When I got the chance to help out, like I said, it was something, that, it wasn't just me. Joe Roberts, our broadcaster, he’s the coordinator for all those events. He finds time for us to go to schools, go to Culver events, talk to kids in the stands and do all that stuff. So yeah, they awarded me with it, but it was something that a lot of the guys on our team contribute to. I'm just happy that I was able to be a part of it.
ECHL: So, when the opportunity was presented to you, was it a ‘no brainer’ to re-sign with Kalamazoo for the 2017-18 season?
JM: Yeah, definitely. I realized very quickly after getting hurt that if I was playing anywhere else, I may have been sent home. Right after the injury I went up to Coach Bootland and said “Hey, please don’t send me home.” If I would have been sent home and not part of a team, and not part of a community, I think my intrinsic motivation may have been a little hindered. I know everyone’s goal is to make it to the NHL, but just being part of an atmosphere where you feel welcomed is huge. Towards the end of the season, I was asking to help with anything, even color commentating. So I helped color commentate, the team brought me on the road to do the playoff color commentating, it was a fun experience. I’ll get involved with any aspect of the game, but it will be nice to actually get on the ice this season. I’m thrilled that Kalamazoo wanted me back.
ECHL: How are you feeling health-wise? Are you ready to go, back to 100%?
JM: 100% is a relative term. I feel that I'm still getting back into shape, back into what I felt going into last year. I have a few more months left of training and my knee feels awesome. I'm actually training at Shattuck St. Mary's right now, which is where I went to high school. The trainers here are literally working with my knee for an hour and a half every day, Monday-Friday. I workout, I skate, I do a little bit of everything. I'm doing everything I possibly can to make sure that I come back like I didn't miss a step. I understand that there's going to be a learning curve coming back and being out for a full year, but I'm more than excited to get started.
ECHL: Aside from your first game and getting back to being on the ice, what are you most looking forward to for the 2017-18 season?
JM: I'm looking forward to getting back and just getting into a routine. This summer, it's you're here and you're there and there's stuff to do on the weekends. But just getting back into a normal routine and being a part of that everyday professional hockey lifestyle will be great. College hockey is Monday through Friday you're working out and skating, and then you're playing games on the weekends. I haven't gotten a chance to play a hockey schedule like this since my year of juniors with the Fargo Force, where you could play Monday and Tuesday, and practice Wednesday, and have Thursday off. It will be cool to finally get a taste of what the professional lifestyle is. It's going to be tough and it will be a test throughout the Season, but it will be a good challenge so I’m excited for that.
ECHL: Aside from all the training that you’ve outlined, any other big plans for the summer?
JM: After this month, I’ll be going to Philadelphia to see family and that will be kind of my last break. After that, I’m heading to Kalamazoo. I’ll work with the trainer there leading up to training camp. Being a 25 year old Rookie wasn’t exactly my original plan I had, but it’s what was given to me, so I’m excited to see what’s ahead!
ECHL: Knowing the Kalamazoo Wings organization already, as well as your coach and some of your teammates, does it make it easier to get started with the 2017-18 season?
JM: Yes, definitely. Coming into last year, I was trying to get used to systems and get used to knowing what Coach Bootland wants. But being injured, I watched video with him (Bootland), we talked in between periods, he told me what he was looking for from guys. So I feel coming into this season, I have a better understanding of what he wants as a coach, and what he wants out of me as a player. Going back and knowing a lot of my teammates already will definitely make it less stressful than last year.
ECHL: Any last words for the ECHL or Kalamazoo Wings fans heading into the 2017-18 season?
JM: I’m excited to play, or I hope I’m playing, in the K-Wings first game which is against Cincinnati. My parents moved to Cincinnati when I was just a little guy. So the first ice I was ever on was the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL. It’s weird how things come full circle in hockey. I’m looking forward to seeing the Kalamazoo fans after meeting so many of them last year. I’m just excited to get back on the ice and show what I can do!