Interview: USA Ice Hockey Defender, Kevin Lind

118Kevin Lind is no stranger to playing in front of huge crowds and the recent tour of Australia has been more like a homecoming for him than many of the players.

Since he was a young man growing up in Chicago and watching the Blackhawks and legends of the game like Chris Chelios, Lind dreamed of donning the USA jersey, a feat he achieved first at the tender age of 17.

Having completed college and been drafted into the Anaheim Ducks, he’s spent the last few weeks touring Australia with his teammates and spreading the word of hockey around the world.

“When Kerry Goulet, the leader of our tour, reached out to me and asked if I wanted to go i was so excited,” he said.

“[Hockey] is so big over here and in Canada and I was eager to jump on the opportunity to spread the reach of the game of hockey. I’ve always wanted to come over [to Australia] and I didn’t really know much about Australian hockey, I didn’t even know if you guys had rinks at first.

“But speaking for the 40 of us on the tour – it’s a great opportunity.

“Hockey has meant so much to us and if we can spread the game a little bit around the world that’s obviously a good thing for everyone – it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Over the last few years the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) has been gaining momentum in Oz driven by visiting tours like this one. But Lind admits his knowledge of the Australian game was limited;

“Before the tour i didn’t know if Australia even has ice rinks but I had heard nothing but good things from the guys that visited last year and the standard seems excellent,” he comments.

“The tour is a great opportunity to experience hockey in Australia and a once in a lifetime for guys like us.”

Whilst this isn’t the first time that he has put on the USA jersey, the occasion is no less special to him. 759

“It’s every kids dream. I have been blessed enough to play for the United States twice before once when I was 17 and then again when I was 18. I’m 22 years old now and you grow up idolising American players,”  he said.

“I’m from Chicago, Illinois so players like Chris Chelios who played for the Blackhawks and was a prolific American defenceman and, as a defenceman he’s someone I really look up to and just to wear the same jersey that he wore and especially against Canada is really special.” 

The riv107alry between Canada and America is a famous one and has thus far provided fireworks for the Australian fans.

“It’s a friendly rivalry but it’s always a good one. To put on the jersey and play against Canada it hasn’t really hit me. It’s been fun for us too and whilst we’re enemies on the ice, we’re friends off it.

Having just signed for the Anaheim Ducks the future is certainly bright for this young star of the rink  and the Australian tour offers him a chance to hone his skills in preparation for the forthcoming season.

“I have just finished up college and have just signed my first professional contract. I got a taste of the minor league at the end of my college year and got to play a game in the minor league system,” he said.

“Training camp will be about a month and a half after our tour of Australia and 454I’m trying to go in with very wide eyes and take it all in. As a first year pro, part of this tour will be learning from the other guys.”

As a former Stanley Cup winning team, Lind has high hopes that The Ducks are on track to take another Stanley Cup in the near future and is keen to learn as much as possible from the experience.

“[The Ducks] have a number of veterans to learn from and the coaches are excellent and will really help me to learn the pro game. I couldn’t be more thankful to the Ducks for taking me in the pro draft and giving me the chance to play professionally with them.” he said.

“Hockey players is that they’re a humble group, especially in your first year as a first year pro you have to learn what you can, emulate them [the veterans] and try to use the knowledge to get into the NHL.”

As the Australian population has grown to enjoy the ice hockey, Lind ponders what those for whom this will be a new experience can expect.

“It’s a fast paced game and in a way it’s like rugby on hockey skates…on eight of _WT25881an inch steel blades and it’s going to be a lot of hitting and a lot of scoring and you know, I think that’s important to draw the fans in,” he said.

“I know that everyone loves rugby [in Australia] and it’s similar in that it’s a hard-hitting, physical, demanding sport and that’s what hockey is…it’s going to be fast its going to be exciting and for people who have never experienced the game before it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Part of the tour is to raise awareness of Stopconcussions.com, a company that is dedicated to helping those affected by head trauma’s – something that is common in hockey players as it is in rugby players.

“Kerry Goulet, our instructor, works with the company to focus on concussions head injuries and things like that. To bring awareness to head trauma injuries…as hockey players and the NHL we’re looking to limit the number of injuries to our players,’ he said.

“I think hockey sometimes gets misunderstood by people who don’t know a lot about it. Yes fighting is legal and sometimes guys can get hurt and that gets a bad rap but I would say that it’s more about controlled violence.

“I would say to people who have never experienced to come out to the games and…in many ways it’s a lot like soccer it’s a beautiful game and sometimes people get hurt and sometimes people get angry but it’s because we’re passionate about spreading hockey and that’s what this tour is about.

“Hopefully we’ll get some new fans from the tour and bring the game to more people and keep coming back year after year. We want to thank the whole nation of Australia for having us as foreigners and travelers and hope we can play some good hockey for you,” he finishes.

And you can catch team USA and Canada, along with Lind, at the remaining games in Melbourne and Sydney.

Melbourne – Friday 25 July, 2014
Rod Laver Arena
Sydney – Saturday 26 July, 2014
Allphones Arena

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With tickets selling out fast, be sure to book your seat soon to one of the sporting extravaganza’s of the year. Tickets start at $79.