At the start of this NHL season if you asked people outside of Edmonton ‘Who is Mark Arcobello?’ chances are they would have been stumped.
Not any more.
Arcobello, a Milford, Conn., native, darted out the gate with a vengeance, showcasing his playmaking ability and racking up 10 assists in the Oilers’ first 10 games. That breakout performance created quite a buzz around Edmonton and put him on the NHL map.
“I skated on a line with a few of the guys I played with last year in Oklahoma City and that carried over to the NHL level,” Arcobello said of his hot start. “I played with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle [during the lockout], so we had some familiarity with each other. But my strong start still somewhat surprised me.”
Acrobello’s pro hockey career evolved one step at a time and includes every rung of the ladder. After a successful college career, he landed in the ECHL before making his way onto an AHL roster where he holds a trifecta of scoring records as the Barons’ all-time leader in goals (50), assists (83) and points (133). And Oklahoma city is where one of the most emotional moments of his pro career occurred.
“The coach came and pulled me out of the weight room to tell me I was going up to play the next night against the Dallas Stars,” he recalled. “It was a great feeling to work that hard and finally get to my ultimate goal. It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget.”
During his first month in the NHL, Arcobello also stared several scoring chances in the face but kept coming up short until one memorable game in South Florida in November. He netted his first NHL goal that night and later buried the game-winner in overtime to lead his Oilers to a, 4-3, road win.
“Scoring that first goal was a great feeling. I was overdue. I had plenty of great chances prior to that game,” Arcobello said. “To get the first one was definitely a special feeling. I got a lot of texts from the family and high school and college friends that night.”
An intriguing factor about Arcobello is the fact that all this talent is packed into a 5-foot-8,
166-pound frame But his stature never slowed him down. In fact it motivated him to work harder and do whatever it took to move up to the next level.
Weight: 166 pounds
Birth date: Aug. 12, 1988
Hometown: Milford, Conn.
College Hockey: Yale University
USA Hockey Experience: Competed at the 2007 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
She states, tongue-in-cheek, that she learned to skate before she learned to walk, “just like most Minnesota kids.” But the genesis of her hockey career coincided with that of her older brother’s. Schleper said she got into the sport at 3 years old because she secretly wanted to be just like her brother Adam.
“We definitely weren’t a hockey family until he started playing,” she said. “But I followed right along in his footsteps.”
Like most girls her age, Schleper grew up playing on boys’ teams. It’s an experience she credits with building her competitiveness. It also helped that she played both soccer and softball at St. Cloud Cathedral High School.
That drive and determination helped lead to roster spots on the U.S. Women’s Select Team for the 2007 Under-18 Series against Canada and a scholarship offer to play at the University of Minnesota starting in 2008.
Schleper says the decision to leave her hometown of St. Cloud and head down I-94 to become a Golden Gopher was the best of her life, but added that her incoming recruiting class was “a little cocky” and quickly got a reality check.
“We kind of thought we’d go all four years and have four national championships,” she said. “But we learned very quickly, we got humbled pretty quickly, that that’s not as easy to do as it is to say.”
Schleper finished her Minnesota career in 2012 as one of the Gophers’ career leaders in defensemen scoring, their all-time leader with 158 games played and, in the final game of her college career, completed her goal of winning a national title.
“Just to end on that note my senior year was absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Schleper said.
With one goal complete, Schleper has her eyes set on another: winning an Olympic gold medal.
Like the path she took to being a national champion at Minnesota, the road to Sochi, Russia hasn’t been smooth or easy. But she continues to push forward, knowing the challenges faced now will pay off once the games begin to count.
After spending his childhood and teen years competing in Milford Ice Arena leagues and a high school league where he skated with his older brother and mentor, Dave, donning a Yale Bulldogs jersey was next on his wish list.
“I grew up watching Yale hockey games and it was 12 miles down the road,” said Arcobello, who earned an invitation to the 2007 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“It was always a dream of mine to go to school there and play hockey, so when the opportunity came along it was a no brainer. A lot of people underestimated how good a hockey program Yale can be.”
That was until the Bulldogs pulled off the unexpected last year and won the first NCAA title in the school’s prestigious history.
“Mark was a key member of the class that really turned our Yale hockey program around,” said Yale head coach Keith Allain. “He was special. He has great hockey sense, a very high skill level and most importantly is a fierce competitor. My only reservation about his success at a higher level was whether or not he would get a real opportunity. It was just a matter of opportunity.”
And now that Arcobello has finally been given that opportunity, it’s only a matter of time before he makes a bigger name for himself far from the Edmonton city limits.
Tom Ferda is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
Photos by Getty Images
Bethel Park, Pa.
Kids often look up to professional athletes as role models and sources of inspiration for playing the sport they love.
Connor Namuth is a kid that anyone can look up to as a role model for the dedication and hard work he has put into getting on the ice.
Connor was born eight weeks premature and suffers from cerebral palsy. He’s undergone five surgeries in his brief 18 years of life, including a hip reconstruction and Achilles tendon surgery that left him with a limp in his left leg.
Before he hung up the skates to pursue coaching, Connor was able to suit up for Bethel Park High School’s senior night, thanks to his teammates scheduling a non-league game. In that game, he scored a hat trick.
“He’s never made excuses, never asked for anything special,” his father, Mike, says. “In his mind, he thought he could do everything everybody else did.”
Connor already has his Level I USA Hockey coaching certification, and next year will be majoring in athletic training at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Photo by Namuth Family