In his first season with the Swarm, Mike Poulin brought home more than just a championship trophy. The goalie was named 2017 NLL Teammate of the Year (winning it for the second year in-a-row), finished second in voting for Goaltender of the Year, and made the Second Team All-Pro lineup following an impressive season. He finished with 646 saves and a .781 save percentage during the regular season for a 12-4 record before adding 165 saves and four more wins in the postseason. Poulin took time with the GeorgiaSwarm.com to discuss his triumphs winning the Championship and the importance of being a team player.
Q: This was your first season with the Swarm. What did you most look forward to about starting the season with a new team?
Poulin: I think what I most looked forward to was, originally, it was playing in the Eastern Division, being closer to home. But right from the first training camp, my first impression was it was an awesome group of guys, coaching staff and management, so I was really looking forward to just spending time with the team and really being part of the Swarm. I got along with everybody so well as soon as I showed up.
Q: How, if at all, did you have to adjust your play when coming to the Swarm?
Poulin: I don’t want to say I adjusted my play, but I adjusted my mindset. I was pretty intense in years past, I was very structured and you know, my preparation, my focus, my need to be on time or be in a certain place at a certain time, so I was very structured. Coming to this young team, I changed, I became more laid back, and what it ended up doing was making me enjoy showing up to play lacrosse more. I went from treating it like a job and win or lose where everything was very serious to me to loving what I was doing, to being happier on the floor and during practice and loving being there. I changed my mindset in terms of wanting to enjoy the moment a lot more.
Q: After being with three teams in your 10-year career, how did it feel to win the Champion’s Cup after one season with the Swarm?
Poulin: It was pretty great. I still look at the championship photos sometimes and see the bright yellow jerseys, and having been on a few teams in the past, it almost still surprises me. I don’t know if I ever expected it would happen so quickly after one year of being with the Swarm, but we really did cap off the perfect year. Right from the first weekend, I loved the group of guys, I loved showing up to the rink and being a part of the Swarm organization. Not having to wait two or three years, it made it even sweeter.
Q: What was it like in overtime in Game 2 in front of 14,000 road fans?
Poulin: Well, I think after tying it the way that we did, my mentality was pretty optimistic. I felt like, “We’re here. We shouldn’t even be given this chance to go to overtime yet, but things went our way. We came all this way, we might as well win it”. I think that was kind of the joke that Brodie MacDonald and I said right before I went to the net and we came all this way we might as well win it now. To be given that extra opportunity, the way the game ended, we were all pretty pumped up, and I think Saskatchewan might have been a little in shock still. Obviously, it ended pretty quick, about a minute or so into the overtime, so we were still on cloud nine from tying it, and they were probably in a little bit of shock, so it was no surprise that it ended so quickly. We didn’t have too much time to think about overtime so much or the crazy fans or how great of an environment it was. Fortunately, we were able to just go out there and end it quickly.
Q: What made you guys so successful at home this season, going 9-2?
Poulin: I think a lot of it has to do with how the Swarm organization and the Arlottas treat us. From the moment we get to Atlanta Airport to the end of the weekend by the time we’re leaving, everything is structured very well. They take care of us for meals, always having our rides coordinated and our hotel being so close to the arena that we’re comfortable. When we’re there, we enjoy it, and we’re not stressed out about where we’re eating or where we get picked up or who has this and that. Once we get to Atlanta, we love it, we’re happy, we have time to rest and be with our team, and they’ve always done a great job of making sure that we have rehab and cryology available to us so we’re always happy, healthy and ready to go.
Q: Not only did you win the Cup, you were awarded NLL Teammate of the Year. How did that feel in comparison to the team victory?
Poulin: I thought it felt really amazing because any one of the guys on Georgia could have represented our team, there’s so many personalities that contributed to our team’s success. John Ranagan is easily the best teammate I’ve ever played with, the guy’s amazing. He wants to see everybody do well, he’s happy for everybody, he gives the best hugs ever after a post-game win. We just all get along so well. But to be nominated meant a lot because we have such a great group of guys anybody could have been the Swarm nominee.
And then to win it league-wise was an honor because you’re selected by your peers, which is always special. It represents what you do on the floor, but mostly what you do off the floor and in your community, so to be thought of as a good leader, that means a lot to me. I believe strongly that the person you are off the floor is who you’re going to be remembered as when your playing days are done. I always want to be remembered as a good teammate and a good person and to be recognized with an award like this is just a little bit of a reminder to keep doing things the right way.
Pictured from left: Brodie MacDonald, Mike Poulin & Adam Shute | Photo Credit: Zach Fletcher
Q: How important is being a good teammate to you, especially to guys you’ve known for such a short time?
Poulin: The lacrosse community is very small so word gets around what people are like. Even though I met a lot of guys for the first time this year, there were a handful of guys that I had played with, so you’re not going to come in and trick anyone, you’re not going to be somebody that you’re not. You always just need to be yourself and that means your reputation carries with you, whether that’s in lacrosse or work or family, I always talk to my kids, nieces and nephews about the importance of being a good person and helping others. So when I came to the Swarm, I’m not very shy, I can walk into a room and introduce myself to anybody. I met a lot of guys that weekend for the first time, but by the time the weekend was over, you would have thought we had been best friends for 10 years because it’s such a good group of people and everybody got along. I hope that has a lot to do with the reputation that I carry.
Q: Being a veteran player among such a young team, how did you feel you were able to impact some of the newer guys?
Poulin: We have a great group of rookies and second-year guys on this team, and I think that’s one of the things that surprised our league so much with us winning was how young our team is. That being said, there was a lot of character and a lot of experience through other leagues whether it be summer lacrosse or American field collegiate level. Even though we are a young NLL team, there are still a lot of championships in our room that have been won at different levels. Just knowing what it takes to get there, to win it goes a long way despite your experience in the league. I think what we focused on more was coming together quickly to bond as a group, and we did a lot of things in preseason. We spent a lot of time together, we always eat our meals together every home and away game which I think is very important, and our team going on a bonding trip to Nashville. I can’t stress how impactful that was for our group to really come together and have a great time. That trip was a key to our success coming together as a team.
Q: You’re considered one of the best goalies in the league over your career. What would you say your key to excellence is particularly in your position?
Poulin: It’s flattering to hear that. I’m a pretty humble guy, but what I attribute to a long successful career in anything, specifically for me, is never waste an opportunity or an experience. What I mean by that is, I was very fortunate when I was younger to play behind some amazing goalies, and I didn’t look at it as a situation where I was a backup, I was never frustrated by that. I took it as an opportunity to learn from guys like Bob Watson, Steve Dietrich or Anthony Cosmo. I did finally get my chance after four years or so of backing up, I felt ready for any situation because I didn’t just sit back an open a door as I was backing up. I was always interested in why the goalies were doing certain things, why teams were running certain plays, so I made sure when I was given my opportunity, I was more than ready to go.
Q: You’ve been in the game for a while, but what are some things you do outside of the league (career, hobbies, etc.)?
Poulin: For my career, I operate a school program where I instruct lacrosse to students within Western Ontario, so I’m very fortunate that I get to live lacrosse in the NLL but as well as my daily job. In terms of hobbies, my family obviously is where my focus is all of the time. I have two young boys and my wife Jan and I have been married for seven years, so my family is obviously the most important thing. When I do have spare time, which is very rare these days after work and the NLL, my wife and I love being outdoors and exercising and doing things that are physical like going on hikes and being outdoors with the kids. So it’s mostly just spending time with my family and trying to do as many things outdoors as we can.
Q: This offseason, what have you been doing to relax, recover and start thinking about the upcoming season?
Poulin: Having won last year, our season went pretty long which shortened the offseason … After the year we had, I couldn’t be more excited to get back at it, so I’m glad that it’s going to be a short offseason. I’ve really tried to stay focused on being around the team as much as possible. Kiel Matisz is a great friend (the two were roommates during the season). I’ve really tried to stay involved through coaching and playing summer lacrosse and being in an upcoming tournament with the Thompson Brothers. I’ve been very lucky this year in being able to spend much more time with the team than I normally get to in an offseason. It just makes our team that much more special so that when we get going again, our group is still as close as we were last year.
Poulin’s incredible final save against Buffalo on 4/15 | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
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