NHL star Mark Letestu returns home for special skate with the kids
On one of his only days off from the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Mark Letestu traveled to his home town of Elk Point on Wednesday for a special skate with the Elk Point Minor Hockey Kids. Spending over five hours on the ice, Letestu ensured he gave each minor hockey team their own ice time with him, and signed an autograph for everyone who wanted one.
“It’s important for me to come back and skate with some of the kids,” Letestu says since becoming an Oiler he’s made a point of coming to skate with the kids once a year, “it’s my second year now that I’m closer to home. As much as they get a thrill out of it, I get the same kick out of it.” Letestu says one of the coolest things about being able to return each year is he recognizes the kids and the growth in their games, “it’s fun to see some of the kids grow.” Letestu says he’s really proud of the Elk Point Atom team that won the league championship the day before and also won their way into the Provincial tournament, “something that’s never been done at their age level for the town.”
Being the centre of the kids’ admiration is something Letestu is working on getting used to, “it almost doesn’t feel like it should be that way,” says the humble centreman with a smile. “I was one of these kids, so I’d appreciate an NHL player coming back.” One of the strangest changes that Letestu is getting used to, is being full-named, he smiles, “they say your full name. So it’s not Mark… it’s Mark Letestu. It’s kinda goofy hearing it that way.”
The AG Ross Arena looks a little different than the last time Letestu laced up, saying the renovations look great, “we always had, in our area for minor hockey, great quality locker rooms. To see some of the renovations, it shows the passion they have for the game.”
When I was a Peewee we won the right to go to Provincials, representing Zone 2, after beating Kitscoty here at home. We were down by two and ended up winning by three here to go to Provincials. At the time it was the biggest game of my life. – Mark Letestu on his fondest memory at the AG Ross Arena
On Justin Fontaine
Fontaine was just acquired by the Edmonton Oilers, currently playing for the farm team, Bakersfield Condors, “eleven year ago, who would’ve thought we’d be playing for the same NHL organization, Edmonton, of all teams. We couldn’t have scripted that.” The pair played together for the Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs in 2010-11 season. “We’re two guys, from the same area, so we’ve followed each other’s careers. To reconnect like this, it shows how small the hockey world really is.”
Letestu says he’d love to see Fontaine get the call up, “it would be great for him to get the call. You know where I play (4th line centre) in the line up, he’d probably get slotted with me. Something, not only cool for us to look back on, but for the Bonnyville Pontiac organization, as well. Kinda a feather in the cap.
Mark Letestu is on pace to have his best year ever in the NHL, “part of it’s being healthy. I had a pretty serious groin injury two years ago. Part of it is it’s the second year with the organization. I’m feeling a little bit more comfortable. For me, it’s opportunity. I’ve had a pretty wonderful opportunity to play on the powerplay.” Letestu says you have to take advantage of the opportunities, “the opportunity to rise, you have to rise. Whether it’s the powerplay or winning the face-off. You have to be there to accept the challenge.”
“For me, it’s a lot of luck this year. The puck’s just going in. I haven’t got to those career highs yet, there’s still a little work to do. I’m not going to put the horse before the carriage.” While in minor hockey, Letestu was given the nickname “the Marksman” by a the local sports enthusiast at the rink, Doug Bassett. Letestu says it’s about taking shots, “my rarity of a right hand shot on our team and my willingness to take shots. You just try to ride the hot streak as long as you can,” adding, “it may even be Doug’s ironic humour [that got him the nickname].”
The latest expansion to the NHL, the Vegas Knights, will be able to choose players from other teams to make up their roster. Letestu has yet to be put on the Oilers’ protected list and although he does have a year left on his contract with the copper and blue, there is the possibility of a move. “Those are the decisions that are left to management. I’m very happy being an Oiler and I’d love to stay an Oiler. But that’s the business side of the game,” Letestu says he tries not to stress about what may happen in the future.
“I feel like I’ve played well enough stay, but that’s not always in your control. That’s above my pay grade,” happy to play wherever he’s needed, Letestu hopes to keep the copper and blue.
On Living the Dream
“Have fun with it. I don’t think everybody is going to make a living playing hockey,” Letestu’s advice to the kids looking to make it to the next level is to have fun and enjoy the game. “Have fun with the relationships, the people you meet, the places it might take you. It’s about what you take from it.” There’s so much to gain when you simply enjoy the sport, “I wouldn’t say the end-all is to play in the NHL. Make friends, listen to some people, parents and coaches who are there to help you; but most important, just have fun.”