By Rob Mixer –
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Shawn Hunwick didn’t need to be reminded that any opportunity to continue his hockey career should not be taken for granted.
And though that was not the first thought buzzing through his head when he heard from the Blue Jackets this afternoon, there wasn’t much that could have stopped him from hopping in his 2003 Ford Ranger and driving to Columbus as fast as possible.
Or, so he thought.
“I got about two miles down the road in Ann Arbor and forgot my wallet and my dress shoes,” Hunwick said. “I tried to pack as fast as I could.”
Part of that packing process – about as impromptu as it could get – included missing out on today’s lecture in Astronomy 101. Not to worry though, Hunwick said, as he’s pretty well-versed in the class and does not expect to lose any ground by being absent for a class period.
“No, didn’t miss anything but I think I can make it up,” he said. “It was at one o’clock, so I missed out on that, but I couldn’t miss out on today.”
The hectic, whirlwind day for the 24-year-old Hunwick began (unbeknownst to him) three hours south at Nationwide Arena. He was lounging around in bed when Steve Mason took a shot off the mask in the morning skate, setting the chain of events in motion which led to him getting a call from the Blue Jackets.
“An assistant coach called me and said to get to the rink,” he explained. “He didn’t really tell me what was going on, so I figured something was up. I just got to the rink and then he let me know.”
When his phone rang around lunch time, Hunwick didn’t know what to think, so he immediately thought about worst-case scenarios. Turns out, the voice on the other end had some surprising things to say.
“I thought maybe I did something wrong last night, I don’t know,” he laughed. “It was pretty cool.”
There was plenty to think about during the drive to Columbus, but Hunwick could not escape the barrage of text messages and phone calls from friends, family and former teammates as he tried to scurry his belongings together in time.
Once he got on the road, he was afraid he would lose another key piece of the checklist.
“I just threw my stuff in the truck,” Hunwick said. “I thought my equipment was going to blow out a few times, and I’d look back with no gear in there and have to head back to Detroit.
“I didn’t really know what to think. I was getting a lot of texts and phone calls, and some pretty funny phone calls from friends. It was nice that my phone died halfway through so I stopped hearing from people.”
The native of Sterling Heights, Mich. just finished his senior season with the University of Michigan Wolverines, where where he posted a 24-12-3 record with a 2.00 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and five shutouts. He was second in the NCAA in wins, third (tied) in shutouts, fifth in save percentage and seventh in goals-against average.
When he arrived in Columbus prior to the game, he was not the only former standout from Red Berenson’s program in the Blue Jackets locker room. Good friend Jack Johnson was a welcoming presence for Hunwick, and their two locker stalls were about 10 feet apart.
“It was obviously nice to have a familiar face, someone I’ve known for a really long time and that I’m close with from the summer time,” Hunwick said. “It’s nice to see someone you know who can ease the process for you a little bit.
“He kept bringing up how cool it was to see the maize and blue winged helmet on the ice here in Columbus. He was joking around that he was going to take a twirl in it.”
Before he suited up in the Blue Jackets uniform prior to last night’s game against the Red Wings, Hunwick made sure to call his father and brother, Matt, who currently plays for the Colorado Avalanche.
“(Matt) was laughing – he wanted to know if I was getting paid,” Hunwick joked. “He was thought it was pretty funny stuff.
“It was cool to go out there and skate in an NHL building. I never played down here with Michigan at all, but it was a really cool experience to take shots from guys like Rick Nash.”
Hunwick said he had one train of thought before he took the ice for warm-ups – what an exciting day to begin his professional journey.
“Don’t fall, and just soak it all in. You never know if you will be back, so enjoy the time here.”