From a jetliner to the ol’ iron lung, Mathew Dumba’s means of transportation will take a sharp turn now that he’s back with the Red Deer Rebels.
The 18-year-old defenceman was airborne during the weekend, accompanying the Minnesota Wild to Detroit and St. Louis for a pair of NHL contests. After sitting in the press box through the Wild’s first four games of the season, Dumba was returned to the Rebels and arrived back in Red Deer Tuesday, exactly one week before the club departs on a three-game Western Hockey League jaunt — via bus — starting next Wednesday in Prince George.
“It was cool to experience that,” Dumba said of life on the road as an NHL player. “I didn’t know how that all works. We had our own plane and I got to go to Detroit and St. Louis and back to Minnesota. It was all so smooth, nothing like the bus trips that we go through here.
“I kind of laughed about coming back. I said I just got back in time for the Prince George road trip, but that’s Dub life, I guess.”
Dumba arrived in Minneapolis Jan. 12 for the Wild’s training camp, expecting that his stay would be beneficial but short. Instead, he made such an impact that he earned a spot on the club’s active roster until a pair of injured blueliners were ready to be inserted into the lineup.
“Going into camp I don’t think that the intentions for me were to stick around for two weeks,” said Dumba. “I only packed for the four days of camp and when I was told I had played so well they were going to keep me around, it was definitely exciting for me.
“It was an amazing experience, just with everything I learned. I soaked in so much in a matter of two weeks. It was just a great experience for me. It was a day by day process and it was awesome while I was up there.”
Dumba, who will be back in the Rebels’ lineup for Thursday’s 7 p.m. date with the visiting Kootenay Ice, was able to connect with several of his future teammates while with the Wild.
“All of the guys were great, and definitely the guys on the ‘D’ core,” he insisted. “Jared Spurgeon is five years older than me and he’s a great guy. He played in the Western League and made the transition to the NHL.
“I watched him a lot. He’s such a great player, so smooth and smart. Lots of other guys I sat in the room with, like Josh Harding and Torrey Mitchell . . . those guys were all real good to me. All the guys were great and I developed some friendships.”
Just the fact that the Wild saw enough in Dumba to keep him around for an extra week or more showed the talented blueliner — the seventh overall pick in last year’s NHL entry draft — that he could very well be a regular with Minnesota sooner than later . . . perhaps as early as next season.
“I hope so. I hope that I can use the experience that I gained this year and go back there next fall and prove that I deserve to stay around the whole season,” said Dumba. “I’m close, I can feel it. I got a little taste of (NHL life) and I can’t wait to hopefully be up there next season.”
His focus now, though, is on helping the Rebels extend their season as long as possible.
“The message (from the Wild) was to just keep on improving, that now that I’ve had a taste at the NHL level to bring that pace and skill back to (the Rebels), make a playoff push and hopefully go far,” said Dumba.
The third-year Rebels defenceman will undoubtedly direct his focus towards the Rebels during the remainder of what could be his final WHL season.
And yet, it will be difficult to forget the NHL custom of not having to carry his own bag of hockey gear.
“That was a real treat. I don’t think I touched my equipment,” said Dumba.