TORONTO– In his official music video for the “S Song”, Mark Owuya refers to himself as the greatest romancer, dancer and the answer.
But that was when he was 16, in high school and living in Sweden.
Now 22, and signed to play hockey somewhere in North America with the Maple Leafs organization, he wants everyone in Toronto to know it’s hockey that’s top of mind.
“Music is a hobby. I don’t do it seriously; I’m a hockey player.”
Owuya got his first taste in the spotlight back in 2006 when he appeared on Sweden’s version of American Idol. Known as “Mark In Da Park,” he gained brief recognition in his home country as an entertainer rather than a hockey player.
“I did all kinds of things, it’s not just about rapping” he said when asked about his role on Swedish Idol. “I was there to freestyle and then I went on the streets to interview people and those sorts of things.”
Gaining confidence while spending time on national television, Owuya enjoyed what he was doing but never expected his music to be part of his future.
“It was a lot of fun and I always liked doing stage performing stuff growing up but hockey is my life and always has been my life. Hockey is my main focus.”
Focusing on hockey, Owuya signed with the Leafs in June after playing for Djurgarden last season. In his third season with the club he had an impressive 2.18 GAA and led the Swedish Elite League with a .926 SV%.
He was introduced to Toronto at July’s prospects camp and although he held his own overseas, Director of Player Development Jim Hughes believed that the quicker he could get to North America, the quicker he could develop the skills needed to succeed here.
“The game is more fast and furious here. I watched Djurgraden a couple times last year and the rink is wider, there’s more space,” said Hughes when asked about what differences Owuya should expect. “Here, they play around the cage and the intensity around the net is far greater than over in Sweden. The guys have a tendency to drive the net here, there’s more traffic in front. So these are all great things for him to see and put another notch in his belt.”
Showing his confidence, Owuya’s answer to the same question is much different.
“I haven’t seen any big difference. I’ve been on the ice only a little but the biggest difference so far is the guys are better at shooting.”
The Swedish goalie’s first game action came this past week when the Leafs held their annual rookie tournament.
In his only full game (after splitting playing time with Garrett Sparks), the Leafs fell to the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in overtime; something he wasn’t too thrilled with.
“Well of course you always want to win and today we didn’t win,” said Owuya after the loss. “We competed hard and had a great comeback but we always want to win.”
“He did well with his compete level, made some outstanding saves and these are good experiences for him,” said Hughes about Owuya’s first North American game. “To put a Leafs jersey on and play at this calibre, at this level, certainly in a North American rink, it’s all helpful. They’re all building blocks.”
“Overall I felt like it was ok,” said Owuya about his first game in blue and white. “You always have to work on everything but I think it went okay.”
Owuya will be working on developing his game with Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire and will take part in Leafs training camp that starts Friday.
He is expected to start in the East Coast Hockey League with the Reading Royals as both the Leafs and Marlies goalie tandems are set in place.
Fact is, he is still raw and will have to work on his butterfly style before moving up on the depth chart. However, at 22, he has now been on Swedish Idol’s stage and the stage that Canadians call an ice rink.
And if he had to choose which of the two he wants more in life.
“Music’s for fun, like I said, I’m a hockey player.”
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