The Minor Hockey kids in Elk Point were soaring as high as the spring sun, shining in the sky, as they had an opportunity of a lifetime to skate with hometown hero and NHL star, Mark Letestu. Letestu showed the community his true character by taking time out of his busy schedule as an Edmonton Oiler, to come back to the community he was raised in.
For Letestu to come back, and his presence, gave kids that level of confidence that will move everybody forward in a positive direction. – Jay Pankiw President Elk Point Minor Hockey
“It means everything to the kids,” gushes Doug Bassett, Elk Point Minor Hockey’s Most Dedicated Fan, “the kids really look up to him, he’s a hero to them.” Bassett says he wishes he had the opportunity to coach Letestu in hockey, “he was always very coach-able. As a kid, I coached him in baseball, he should’ve made Major League Baseball (he was that talented at baseball). He was always a leader, when he made veteran on our teams. When he was a rookie, he was always a listener, sat on the bench lots, took his time out – never pouted, went to right field when he had to- never pouted; he just trotted out there. When it was his turn to be the man and win the big games, he could handle the pressure like no one else, I’ve ever known.”
Letestu said being back at the AG Ross Arena was fun, “especially with the kids being able to come out and have fun out there. Their season may over and this is kinda a way to tie-up the year for them; we’re just having fun out there.” Elk Point had one of its best years yet, with three of the eight teams winning League Championship, as well as, making it to Provincials. The kids’ memorable season was only enhanced by ending it with Letestu, “it was as enjoyable for me as it is for them.”
Minor Hockey President, Jay Pankiw, says the day was “something the kids will carry with them forever. Not everybody gets an opportunity to skate with a NHL star. For him to go out of his way to show his own humbleness, to come back to his home town and skate with the kids, for no other reason than putting a smile on a kid’s face just shows his enormous personality. It shows how great of a person he is.”
Letestu praised the town on producing great talent, “the talent is pretty impressive! There was a couple of times I had to try really hard to get the puck away from them. The coaches have done a good job here, the kids are passionate about their craft and their skill level is great.” Letestu knows, passion goes a long way to improving your game.
“When he told me he could do this,” Bassett says he knew right away Letestu was serious about making the NHL, “I had a hunch that he could and he proved that he could. I never doubted anything he tried to do, he always tried to be the best at everything he did. He worked hard, he practiced, he paid attention, and he listened.”
Letestu had a special message for the Elk Point Minor Hockey kids, first of all have fun and second value your time. “Value your practice time. Everybody kinda gets focused on the games, but if there’s an opportunity to get better, to be around people who can take you in that direction, take it.” Letestu valued his time with the kids, he talked and gave advice to each kid who wanted his attention. He signed autograph after autograph and didn’t overlook a single child. He was gracious with his time and genuine with his smiles.
Practices are the most important thing for kids developing their skills in hockey – Mark Letestu #55 Edmonton Oilers
The day was to celebrate a large donation of hockey equipment from the NHL Player’s Association, Goals & Dreams Program. Minor Hockey received 14 full sets of hockey gear, sticks and skates included. The gear will be used to help players, who may not otherwise be able to, play the game. The program is called Letestu’s Locker, after the star; because, Letestu made sure Elk Point Minor hockey knew of the program and is suspected to have worked behind the scenes to ensure Elk Point benefited from the program. President Jay Pankiw says Letestu’s Locker will give so many kids a chance to experience hockey, “first and foremost we’ll use the program for people who need it. But we also want to look at doing an introduction to hockey. A six-week trial program at the beginning of the year so parents and kids can try hockey and see if it’s really for them.”