The Mark of Excellence!

Tales from the Timebox: May 2nd, 2017

It’s  safe to say I was the first one to ever write about him. I should have put a patent on him back then, I could be a rich man. That was when he played for the Elk Point minor hockey teams. And in his fifth year of hockey… I gave him the nickname “the Marksman”.
What more can we say about our local Elk Point boy that hasn’t been said already. Mark “the Marksman”  Letestu has been playing simply fantastic during the Oilers playoff run. They write and talk about him all the time. I must confess, I do to. They talk how he’s Mr. Versatile, or how his coach Todd McLellan said he will make a great coach one day. I’m with him on that! I think it’s because he speaks so well, he could even end up on Sportnet with Ron, Nick, Elliott and Kelly one day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… he’s not done playing for a few years yet.
Sunday night wasn’t the best for any of the Orange Crush, but you know they will come out flying tonight for sure. As for the Marksman, have you ever seen anyone perform above his pay scale quite like him? On the ice for all the important face offs, killing penalties, blocking shots and on the power play getting open, in the money slot on the right side of the goalie, where he has already scored three power play goals.
The Marksman knows how to hit the net up on the top shelf where his mom used to keep the cookies. It didn’t just happen overnight, that comes from years of practicing his shot. When the Marksman  lived up on Circle Drive, only a block from the rink, he would take a net home from the A.G. Ross Arena every summer and practice with it; shoot, shoot, shoot.
Circle Drive had its own little road hockey league; Mark, his brother Lee, Brian Poitras, Nicky Myshaniuk and Melvin Easthope (who by the way also developed a wicked slap shot). Some other neighbourhood  kids would pop over too. When they didn’t play road hockey, they played pick up ball, sometimes with just a stick as a bat. These kids would play outside every day. The Marksman has always been able to make his “Mark” at every level he has ever played from the time he was a Peewee in Elk Point leading the Avalanche team into the playoffs and provincial finals (with 4 or 5 goals in most games), but also still a team player who passed the puck off, to set up other guys and give them some glory. He could always come through when the Avalanche needed a big goal to win the game or a turning point in a game. Just like he does today with the Oilers.
Playing baseball, he pitched a huge semi final and final game to give the Elk Point Midget Sox their very first provincial win. When we sat in the dug out together, with the Sox down by 7 runs, in the first inning, in the final game, he said to me “I can do this”. And so he did! The best thing about Mark, he was easy to coach. Never would he argue or pout if you asked him to play right field. I’m positive he could have went on and played at a much high level of ball somewhere; but his heart was in hockey.
Going from Junior B to Junior A, and leading the Alberta Junior A league with the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Then off to college in Michigan, making such an impression that the Pittsburgh Penguins would sign him. Up and down a few times Wilkes Barre to the East Coast farm team, he finally would make the big league and start making his “Mark” there. Pittsburgh, Columbus and now an Oiler.
Not just any Oiler!   He’s the Oiler who’s going to bring the Stanley Cup to Elk Point Alberta for Canada Day. Carry it in the back seat of his father in law George Hahn’s old 1966 Mustang convertible with his wife Brett, his two sons and young daughter riding shot gun. And I , Doug “the Sportshound” Bassett will be driving him down main street… and the crowd goes wild!!!
 And a little trivia for you;  fifty years ago yesterday, May the 2 1967 was the last time the Leafs won the Cup
and now for the K. A. Campbell quote of the week ” Hockey is like a disease, you can’t really shake it.’ – Ken Wregget