Thunderbirds goalie settling in new city

By Ross Coyle

Danny “Mooms” Mumaugh’s new goalie helmet sports an image of the Denver, Colo., skyline as well as Seattle’s.

He’s an athlete with two homes, and it shows. Despite being born and raised in the Denver suburb of Centennial, Mumaugh has spent the past three years working his way onto the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team.

“Coming up to see them and being with the team before I signed, I wasn’t second guessing myself,” Mumaugh said. “I knew that’s where I wanted to play and where I wanted to be.”

He says that the damper weather of Seattle is a welcome change from the his hometown.

“It was a good transition,” he said. “Colorado is dry and Seattle is rainy and moist, I don’t mind the rain because Colorado is so dry. It’s a good change of pace.”

Mumaugh started his hockey career at a young age in Centennial.

When he was 6, he discovered he had a knack for ice skating and shortly after joined a midget hockey league.

He played forward for half of the season before he asked to be assigned to the goalie spot. He liked how goalies stood out in both their equipment and position on the rink.

“You’re the only guy back there and you make the save, it’s something that always got my attention,” he said. “That’s really the big difference, I loved being goalie, no matter how old I was.”

So he asked his father to try to put him in the goalie spot.

“(His father) came into the car after practice with a roster, and it had a ‘G’ by my name for goalie,” he said. “I was pretty pumped and ever since then I never looked back.”

When Mumaugh was 15, he attended his first practice camp with the Thunderbirds in 2010 at ShoWare Center in Kent.

While he didn’t make the initial cut, he returned next year and made the team — only to be cut again a day before their first game. In 2012, he made the team, played his first full season, and has returned for a second go.

The Thunderbirds starting goalie improved dramatically in the past year, raising his save percentage by four points despite having played fewer games.

Mumaugh attributes the improvement to more time on the rink than last year, which helped ease his first-year jitters.

He replaced goalie Justin Myles last year, after Myles suffered a neck injury, and finished out the season.

It’s all about staying calm, he said, and not over-thinking your role despite the added pressure.

“When you’re the goalie, the spotlight’s on you just a little bit more, more weight on your shoulders,” he said.

He said getting more time on the ice has improved his goalkeeping more than practice alone. While practicing never hurts, there’s only so much it can achieve without the real stress of a game to test him and keep him sharp.

“When you play you get more comfortable you get more confident, and that in turn makes you play better,” he said. “You gotta take it one save at a time.”

When Mumaugh feels discouraged in his playing, he uses those setbacks as motivation. Not being drafted into the Western Hockey League was a setback for him, but it only encouraged him to prove himself when he was invited back to the Thunderbirds camp.

“There are discouraging moments in anyones career,” he said, but he uses those moments as “fuel and motivation to prove people wrong and prove yourself right.”

But for all of its ups and downs of being a junior league hockey player, Mumaugh remains dedicated to the sport and plans to go far, regardless of what it asks of him.

“I left home as a 16-year-old to go play hockey, to play the sport that I love, and that’s the sacrifice you gotta make,” he said. “You gotta love what you do, and I think everyone here does.”

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