PHOTO: (L-R) Canmore Eagles Head Coach Andrew Milne, assistant coach Jeremy Reich and San Jose Shark star Patrick Marleau take time out from the Eagles Summer Hockey Camp
It was the summer of 1997 while Patrick Marleau, Jeremy Reich, Andrew Milne and two other buddies were renting a house in Swift Current, Saskatchewan that their life-long friendship was kindled.
Dirt poor, performing menial summer jobs, they all wondered what their futures would hold.
While life’s road has certainly taken them in different directions, their teenage friendship has remained strongly intact with Marleau, now a bona-fife star with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, this week joining his former roommates in Canmore to lend a hand as the star instructor at the Canmore Eagles inaugural Summer Hockey Camp.
“Jeremy and I go way back,” mused Marleau, whose fortunes certainly took a giant leap forward in the summer of 1997 when he was drafted #2 overall by the Sharks. “Jeremy and I both played our minor hockey in Saskatchewan, so we played a few games against each other and we also played together on a few provincial and national teams. We were also lucky enough to play two seasons together in the Western Hockey League in Seattle from 1995-97. Andrew was playing for the Swift Current Broncos around the same time and we just hung out with each other during the summer months and we all became very good friends.”
While his summer schedule is generally too busy to do the “hockey camp instructor” thing, Marleau was quick to lend a hand when his buddies requested his attendance at their first attempt in running a summer hockey school.
“We have fun together, our wives are friends and all our kids play very well together too, so it was an easy decision to come to Canmore for a week,” said Marleau, who has registered 404 goals and 457 assists in 1165 regular season NHL games. “Andrew and Jeremy come to California to visit me, so it was my turn to come back up to Canada and visit with them. My six-year-old boy is registered in the hockey camp and my four-year-old has gotten on the ice for a few shifts too, so everyone is enjoying themselves.”
While Marleau has visited Banff on several occasions, he has never really experienced life in Canmore.
“Canmore is awesome,” said Marleau. “The views are fantastic, the people are really friendly and the hockey rink provides a perfect atmosphere for a Junior hockey team. I now understand why Andrew and Jeremy have decided to live and work for the Canmore Eagles.
“I grew up in Canada, so it is nice to give something back to the kids here. I went to hockey school as a kid and these kind of memories stick with you for a lifetime. It’s been a wonderful experience to get back to hockey’s grassroots – be in the dressing rooms tying skates, eating in the lunch room with the kids and helping out on the ice.”
When asked if he will ever come back to visit Canmore again, Marleau quickly replied – “Yes for sure – I’ll be back – it’s such a beautiful place”.
NOTEBOOK: The Eagles, who open their 2013 training camp on August 22, are in urgent need of a few more billet homes for their incoming players. Billet families receive season tickets for all family members, 10% off groceries at Sobeys, and a $350 grocery stipend every month. If you have a spare room and would like to billet a hockey player from September to early March, please contact Darryl at 403-688-6067.