New Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike McKenna is a man of eclectic interests

BRANDON — The guided tour Mike McKenna led through his life on Sunday was nothing if not eclectic.

There was the economics degree he finished in four years, with honors, at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., his interest in comparative religions and the college class he took in stage craft that came in mighty handy last summer when he and his dad, Terry, built a wooden bar for McKenna's house.

There was McKenna's passion for Scandinavian death metal, which a teammate called "weird," but McKenna insisted is all about the technical ability of the musicians.

"And I also have a huge interest in amusement parks," McKenna said. "I'm a card-carrying ACE member, if you want something weird: American Coaster Enthusiasts club."

Lost in the conversation was what he has done as the Lightning's goaltender. In three games since being signed to his first NHL contract off AHL Norfolk's roster, he has a 1.57 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage, and Saturday, in his second start, he made 28 saves in a 1-0 shutout of the Islanders.

There is still plenty of uncertainty about injured No. 1 Mike Smith. But McKenna, 25, seems to be establishing a bridge while the team waits as Smith recovers from an unspecified upper-body injury.

"It's really neat," coach Rick Tocchet said. "You always hear about this one guy who comes from nowhere. Maybe he's one of those guys, a guy who can be somebody in the NHL."

McKenna, a 2002 sixth-round pick of the Predators who, after college, kicked around the minors for four years, has shown the raw materials, especially a good glove and impeccable positioning that allows for minimal flopping and wasted movement.

But after an hour practice at the Ice Sports Forum during which, Tocchet said, "I tried to kick him off the ice but he said, 'No, I have to take more shots,' " McKenna displayed more than a one-track mind.

He said he reads "a fair amount" but almost exclusively nonfiction. His current kick: the Old West, fueled, in part, by girlfriend Rachel Lindstrand, who he said is one-eighth American Indian.

He has an intense interest in Formula One and IndyCar racing from watching his father compete around the country as a champion amateur open-wheel driver.

In one blog he wrote for Norfolk's Web site, McKenna, who grew up and still lives in St. Louis, discussed politics and national defense.

"It's important to show that hockey players can accomplish things other than hockey," McKenna said. "I took pride in doing well in college. Some people like to focus on hockey, but education was just as important to me."

"It's real gratifying," said Terry, who works for the NHL as a scorer at Blues games. "He always had passion for many things, whether it's been his music or whatever it might be."

Ah, McKenna's music.

Death metal bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and Slayer and other metal bands such as Pantera, all on McKenna's 80 GB iPod, are assaultive in their head-banging urgency.

"It's not like I'm an angry person," McKenna said. "I'm probably the calmest guy. The guitar work is what did it. I tried playing guitar, and it was terrible. I see what those guys do, and it's unbelievable. The power and speed is what I like."

Still, Lightning goalie Karri Ramo, a Norfolk teammate, called the music "weird" and joked, "We're worried about him a little bit. They are singing about Vikings and old heroes. He sees something else in the music. It fits him in that he doesn't go with the mainstream."

It's worth taking the tour.

NOTES: Smith (upper body) did not practice, though general manager Brian Lawton has indicated he is expected to play Tuesday against the Thrashers. … Defensemen Steve Eminger, Paul Ranger, Lukas Krajicek and Matt Smaby and right wing Mark Recchi got the day off for "body maintenance." … Left wing Wade Brookbank, acquired Saturday from the Hurricanes, was still traveling.

fast facts

McKenna's manifold

• Read Mike McKenna's blogs while with AHL Norfolk at www.norfolkadmirals.com; under the Fans tab at the top, click the "Admirals Blogs" link.

• Hear the music of Dark Tranquillity at www.myspace.com/dtofficial; In Flames at www.myspace.com/inflames; Slayer at www.myspace.com/slayer; Pantera at www.myspace.com/pantera

New Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike McKenna is a man of eclectic interests 02/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 9, 2009 7:29am]

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