Walk through Todd Marchant’s California home and you’re likely to find more hockey equipment than beach gear kicking around. With three Junior Duck players joining one of the mightiest Ducks of them all on the ice, it’s a family affair when it comes to hockey.
As driven as he is when it comes to shutting down an opposing team’s top line, Marchant is even more devoted to spending time with his family. So far Timothy (8), Ashley (10) and Lillian (12) have all followed dad’s skate tracks on the ice, and 2-year-old Bradley is not far behind.
“We are definitely a rink rat family,” said Marchant who recently wrapped up his sixth season with the Anaheim Ducks and his 17th overall in the NHL.
“My wife is an assistant coach, so some nights she is at the rink as much as I am. And any night I can get to one of the kids’ games, the whole family is at the rink for four or five hours.”
After spending a good chunk of his career in Edmonton, where he played a pivotal role in helping the Oilers to six playoff appearances, Marchant migrated south to Anaheim where he helped the franchise win its first and so far only Stanley Cup in 2007.
Bringing hockey’s Holy Grail home to southern California provided a huge lift to an organization known for its exploits on the big screen with the creation of the Disney-created Mighty Ducks film series. It also ranks second to the Great One coming to Los Angeles in the late 1980s in terms of expanding the popularity of the sport in SoCal.
“Winning the Cup a couple years ago in Anaheim was huge for the youth program here,” said Marchant who played a vital role on the penalty-killing unit during the team’s title run. “People became interested in us as a team and interested in hockey as a sport as a result.
Todd Marchant #22
“It helped spread the word that we are a team that is in contention with some of the best hockey powerhouses in the league, and anytime you win a title for your town it unites everyone to the game.”
It also gave Marchant a ringside seat when it comes to witnessing the growth of the game around the United States, and particularly in the Golden State.
“Hockey is definitely on the map now here on the west coast,” said Marchant, who still calls Buffalo, N.Y., home and runs a hockey school there in the summer. “I see it now in my own kids who are playing out here [in Anaheim] and the number of kids in the Anaheim Jr. Ducks program sells out every year.”
And as he ponders how far the game has come since he first laced up a pair of skates more than 30 years ago, Marchant stays focused on the present rather than how much hockey is left in his tank.
“I think I will know when it’s my time [to be done],” said Marchant, who signed his first professional contract with the N.Y. Rangers shortly after competing in the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
“I don’t really like to judge where I will be or what will happen next season until I am finished with the present.”
For the time being, Marchant is still giving an honest effort every time he steps on the ice. When the time does come to hang up his competitive skates, it will allow him to spend more time with his family, whether it’s playing Wii bowling at home or helping to teach them to play hockey the way he did for so many years.
“To see them out there having fun and to have my oldest [Lillian] be so in tune with the game now, asking questions and really wanting to grow in her game is so much fun for me to be a part of,” he said.
“Once the little guy [Bradley] starts to play I think things are going to get a bit hectic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way … as long as he doesn’t decide to play goalie.”
Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska
The USA Hockey National Championships provide enough excitement to get any heart racing. Amplify that by 10 overtimes over the course of five games and you get the heart-pounding pressure that Alaska Icebreakers goaltender Ashley Wilkes felt at the 2011 USA Hockey Girls Tier II 16 & Under tournament.
“During the games the adrenaline was really going, especially in the first game where it was a must win,” said Wilkes, who played in three overtime contests, including a semifinal affair that went in to five extra sessions.
“That’s what really kept us going through all the overtimes and on to every game was the fact that a win ensured us a higher position and we were that much closer to winning the whole thing.”
Earning a bye from Districts and straight to Nationals in Anaheim, Calif., Wilkes and the Icebreakers went 2-0-0-1-2 (W-L-T-OTW-OTL) in tournament play from March 30-April 2 before falling in the semifinal game, 3-2, to the Keweenaw Storm team out of Michigan.
And despite heading home empty handed, Wilkes and her teammates enjoyed the competition as well as the much-deserved rest that followed.
“We really didn’t notice how tired we were until after our final game,” she said. “I fell asleep in the locker room for an hour before I even took my gear off.”