The Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs retired Mark Letestu’s #11 jersey on Saturday night. Letestu’s small town roots shined on Saturday evening; he was gracious, humble, and generous. The Elk Point native arrived at the rink an hour before the ceremonies to make sure he had time to meet the current roster and thank the organization that helped shape him into the player he is today, with the Edmonton Oilers. A true testament of his character, Letestu embraced his fans, he gave extra time to the young ones, making sure he signed their hats, cards, pictures, and jerseys. When every young fan was satisfied and smiling ear-to-ear, Letestu proudly brought his family out to center ice to watch as his jersey soared to the rafters, in front of a roaring crowd.
LCN had to opportunity to speak with Mark Letestu’s father, Garth. The pride was beaming as his stood pre-ceremonies looking on to the ice surface at the RJ LaLonde arena with wife Deanna. “Just so proud. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice, from mom and dad and him. He had to do a lot on his own to get there,” Garth is all smile when talking about his son. Garth always knew Mark would play hockey, he never imagined it would be in the NHL, but he knew there was something talented about his boy, “the first game he played in Dundurn (SK), he got the puck in front of the net, and all these little kids fell down in front, Mark took the puck, went around the net and scored from the other side. Then I knew he was going to be a hockey player.” A wrap around at four when most were mastering not falling. “He was thinking the game then!”
Mark will be the first to tell you the NHL wasn’t on his radar until it actually happened. Dad Garth says it was the same for him, “we never-ever thought he would play in the NHL, it was unreal. We were headed to Winnipeg to see him in an American Hockey League game and that’s when he got his phone call. Then it was ‘there you go! He’s going to make it!’.”
Mark is a true believer in hard work, he shows it every time he steps on the ice, these are lessons he learned at home. To the hockey parent that believes there’s something special about their kid, Garth says don’t give up. “Never give-up, but always have an open mind. There’s so many road blocks and obstacles, it’s all about commitment and sacrifice. Even then, sometimes you gotta get lucky and someone’s got to believe in you.”
If Garth made sure to teach his boy anything about the game, it was to cheer Montreal. The Habs were the Letestus’ team, up until Mark put on his first NHL jersey, says Garth. “Sometimes I have to forgive the past, in order to celebrate the future,” laughs Garth. Game 7, Stanley Cup Final, Edmonton vs Montreal, who will Dad cheer for? “Depends who Mark’s playing for, he could be playing for Montreal by then,” laughs the proud father, who ultimately, like any parent, supports his kid no matter what… even if he isn’t donning the Canadiens jersey.
With the Oilers only two and half hours away, and three grand-children, along with Mark and wife Brett, something tells me Garth is extremely happy to have his boy wearing the copper & blue.