Photo by Rena Laverty
Wearing the colors of his country takes on an extra special meaning for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-17 forward Owen Lindmark.
After all, his dad did the same. Only he did it while serving in the United States Air Force for over 20 years. That symbolism isn’t lost on Lindmark, who saw up close the sacrifices his dad made to serve his country.
“It’s so special to wear the jersey,” said Lindmark. “When I was growing up, I was part of the military family. My dad was deployed several times, including to Afghanistan. He made the sacrifice for our family and our country. It really gives you perspective on life. We moved about every three years when I was growing up.”
Growing up, ice hockey wasn’t really part of Lindmark’s vocabulary until he was a little older.
“I didn’t start playing until I was eight years old,” he explained. “My dad was in the Air Force and we were living in Oklahoma. The first time I watched hockey on TV was the Chicago Blackhawks when I was 7 years old. There was no hockey in Oklahoma.
“I used to play street hockey with my older brother and my friends but that was all.”
Fast-forward just a few years to a move to St. Louis and hockey was first and foremost in Lindmark’s mind.
“The first time I skated was when we had moved to St. Louis,” he said. “I enrolled in a Learn to Play hockey program and after a few weeks, I was put on a house team — the Southern Illinois Ice Hawks. I played one more year in the program before moving up to the AAA St. Louis Blues.”
Then, Lindmark and his family were on the move again, this time to Iowa where they had family. Once again, he was not in a town where he could play hockey so he had to commute to Chicago in order to continue the sport that he had grown to love.
“I had a two-and-a-half-hour commute to Chicago to play for the Mission,” Lindmark said. “And that was for two years.
“After two years, my dad was transferred to Chicago and I ended up playing for the Mission for six years before coming to Plymouth.”
When Lindmark, who by this time was living in Naperville, Illinois, received an invitation to join the NTDP, he jumped at the opportunity to represent the United States and advance his hockey career.
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“It was a dream come true to make the NTDP,” said Lindmark. “It’s the best developmental program in the nation. It’s an honor to represent the country and such a special moment for me.”
He credits his parents — Steve and Monica — as a huge part of his success when it comes to the sport of hockey.
“They were always there for me and pushed me to do the best that I can,” he said. My dad played [football and baseball] at Augustana College and my mom ran DI track [at Truman State]. It feels good to be able to give back to them. They were not shocked over hockey — I think they saw it.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
In addition to his parents, he says he had two coaches early on that really helped him develop his game so he can play at this high level.
“When I played for the AAA St. Louis Blues, NHL Hall of Famer Al MacInnis was my coach. He really did his best to look out for me and showed me how special I could be. He’s a big reason why I’m here today,” explained Lindmark. “Gino Cavallini was my coach the last two years with the Chicago Mission. He really helped my game develop.”
Lindmark and his Under-17 teammates have a full slate of games, including four home games at USA Hockey Arena, before heading to Finland for the team’s final international event of the season.
“We don’t need to change — we have a very confident group of guys. When we are on our game, nobody can stop us. We need to keep playing that way,” said the 6-foot, 180-pound forward.
One thing that has surprised him this year is just how fast the team has bonded together. This is a big reason for the squad’s success.
“Everyone on the team has respect for each other,” he explained. “We push each other to do our best. We have been on a roll and playing well together as a team. There are no individuals — we want to play as a team.”
He also credits the coaching staff — John Wroblewski, Greg Moore and Kevin Lind — in helping this team develop throughout the course of the season.
“We came in and the coaching staff really explained what they wanted — the development of everyone,” explained Lindmark. “They knew it would be tough and we knew it would be tough but they believed in us from the start. We are doing our best to give it back to them.”
One of his favorite memories so far from this season was wining the Under-17 World Challenge in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, way back in early November. It was a unique experience for him.
“It was awesome,” said Lindmark. “There have only been a few NTDP teams that have won the event and it was a great experience. It was such a great bonding moment for our team. We were able to beat three Canadian teams at the tournament and in a hostile environment.”
Which is probably why Lindmark appreciates the jersey even more.
“There is nothing better than to wear the crest and play for the country,” he stated.
No truer words for a hockey kid coming from a military family.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.