Player Spotlight

Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.

Photo by: Dan Brodie
Photo by: Dan Brodie
Mike Poulin of the Georgia Swarm is in the PLPA Player Spotlight. By Bob Chavez

Mike Poulin is not unlike so many National Lacrosse League goalies who came before him in that he had to wait his turn.

First, it was Steve Dietrich in Buffalo. Then Bob Watson in Toronto, and Anthony Cosmo in Boston. But when hindsight is 20/20, and you look back at the starters that Poulin backed, that's an impressive trio that Poulin was able to watch and learn from.

And make no mistake, Poulin watched and learned.

It wasn't until his 2010 arrival in Calgary that Poulin got a shot to emerge as the No. 1 keeper for a team and in 2011, he logged more than 900 minutes for the Roughnecks.

His time in Calgary came to an end after 7 seasons, however, and he's in his first season with the Georgia Swarm after signing as a free agent. It didn't take long for Poulin's impact to be seen as the Swarm raced out to 7-1 record and today are in first place in the NLL's East Division.

Let's catch up with Poulin to get some thoughts on his early days in the game, what's working in Georgia today, and what his weakness is when it comes to junk food.

Question You're a Kitchener boy, where the youth lacrosse scene is pretty strong. Tell us how you got started in lacrosse and who guided you in that direction.

When I started playing the lacrosse scene wasn't very strong, we always just had enough guys to field a team, no one got cut. But I got started in lacrosse because I was cut from the baseball team, a classmate of mine played lacrosse, and mom and dad weren't going to let me do nothing all summer, so I played a little bit at recess and decided to give it a shot.

Question Not a lot of young lacrosse players volunteer to play goal, so how did you end up there?

I went to my first house league practice, and the coach gathered everyone around and asked who wanted to play goalie today, and no one put up their hand. Then he asked who didn't want to run today, and I fired my hand up, and he said "ok you're the goalie." The rep team was practicing after us, and they needed a goalie, so the coach asked my mom if I could stick around for another hour. Then I stuck around for the rest of the season with the rep team and the rest is history.

Question You started your NLL career with Toronto in 2007 with the Toronto Rock, where Hall of Famer Bob Watson was working the cage. What was your first impression of his approach to the game and is there something he did or told you that sticks with your game today?

I learned so much from Bob Watson in those two years.I grew up watching this legend, so after the shock and awe wore off I just became a sponge around him, trying to pick up as much as possible. The biggest takeaway I have was that Bob was the hardest worker on the team. He was a true leader, he set the tempo for how hard you have to work to be successful and everyone else had no excuse not to work as hard as him. Also, he never let things rattle him, he would just say "there ya go" and he was over it. It was amazing to watch his composure, he was truly unshakeable.

Question Calgary is really where your pro career took off. How did playing in Calgary boost your personal success as a goalie?

Calgary gave me an opportunity to play, I came in with no ego and a 1-9 record. After sitting behind Chugger in Buffalo, Whipper in Toronto and Coz in Boston, I got to watch first-hand what it took to be successful, so getting the opportunity to play was huge. We had some awesome teams in Calgary so I was very lucky, but having the trust of Brad Banister and Curt Malawsky was huge for my confidence.

Question You signed with Georgia last offseason. What was the most difficult thing about leaving Calgary?
Answer After 7 years in Calgary I had so many good friendships out there, not just with the players, who were like brothers to me, but within the organization, and with the fans. It was tough knowing I wouldn't be seeing those people as often, but the toughest part was leaving without a championship. We had some great teams, championship caliber teams, and we came close a couple times but never finished the job.

Question What drew you to Georgia?

I like the team that John Arlotta has built, it's young, athletic and ready to win now. I thought I could contribute some veteran leadership and help that group win. The reduced travel and time away was a key factor as well, but the main draw for me was the talent in the locker room.

Question What's been working so well for you, as a team, in Georgia this season?
Answer I think we're at our best when we win the energy categories ... offensive resets, loose balls, caused turnover, shots on goal, and less time in the penalty box. When you can outwork the other team in those categories, usually the score will take care of itself. We're all talented in this league, every team is good, there are no bad players in the NLL (maybe Curtis Dickson), so you have to work harder than the guy across from you to win and when our squad wins those categories mentioned, we usually win.

Question After a few training camp sessions, did you sense this type of success coming this season for the Swarm?
Answer I could see we had a talented group right away, and it took a couple exhibition game losses to show us that we can't just win on talent alone. We worked really hard in training camp, and bonded in the short time we had, so I wasn't surprised with the good start we had. If I had to guess our record at the halfway point I probably wouldn't have guessed 7-2 though!

Question Lots of talk this season about some American rookies making a big splash in the NLL, but it's been quite a while since we've seen an American goalie. Would developing some young Americans as stoppers help grow the game south of the border?
Answer It would be great to see American goalies come in to the NLL and be successful, hopefully in the near future. But for our sport and league to grow and be successful we need more American players and goalies. There are so many talented American lacrosse players out there, hopefully we can figure out the schedules so the MLL and NLL don't have too many conflicts, because it would be great with expansion to have more U.S. players join the NLL.

Question Who will win the Stanley Cup this season?
Answer Washington Capitals

Question Who do you want to win the Stanley Cup?
Answer Ottawa Senators

Question Goalies are known for their routines and superstitions. Do you have any you can share
Answer I'm pretty laid back when it comes to the superstitions, I just drink a lot of coffee and try to enjoy the experience, you'll see me dancing in the locker room a lot.

Question Toughest shooter you've ever faced and had trouble stopping?
Answer Probably John Grant Jr, I think he has scored like 4 OT goals on me so I have to say him ... but John Tavares was the best at hiding his shot.

Question Most intense defender you've ever played with?
Answer Rory Smith

Question What's your junk food weakness?
Answer Cadbury mini eggs or sour patch kids

Question Favorite road restaurant in the NLL?
Answer Earls

Question Finally, best visiting locker room in the NLL, and why?
Answer Probably Buffalo, it's the only one big enough that they guys aren't getting dressed on top of each other. And they provide Tim Hortons coffee ...

For his career, Poulin has a 61-43 record in the regular season with a career save percentage of .765 and a goals-against average of 11.52. He was the NLL's Goaltender of the Year in 2012.

PLPA Correspondent

Bob Chavez has been covering the NLL since 1995 and has been a writer/editor for since its inception in 2008. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife and 2 children.

Previous Spotlights