Nick Marson on a mission

August 5, 2023

He is back home and getting himself ready for his second season in the Great North Under 18 Hockey League. After moving away from home to play for the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals in 2022-2023, goalie Nick Marson is training hard for what his coach feels is going to be a big season as a member of the Soo U18 Jr. Greyhounds.

Nick Marson, in goal for the Sudbury Nickel Capitals last season. (photo by Bob Davies)

After not being chosen as one of the two goalies for his hometown Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North U18HL last fall, Marson — who was just 14 years old at the time — left his parents home in Sault Ste. Marie to head to Sudbury to try out for the U16 Nickel Capitals. Despite the fact that his parents preferred that he stay home in the Soo and play at the U16 AA level, Marson showed his maturity and determination by instead opting to sign an AAA card to play for the U16 Nickel Capitals. And play he did — and rather well — for Sudbury over the course of the 2022-2023 season. 

Marson, who did not turn 15 years old until December 16, 2022, certainly showed his capabilities in the U16 Nickel Capitals net. He posted a 7-5-1 record with a 3.74 goals against average while routinely facing more than 40 shots per game. It is also worth noting that while Marson had a personal record of 7-5-1, the U16 Nickel Capitals were only 4-11-0 in the games that he did not play.

While showing his net worth for the U16 Nickel Capitals, an untimely injury cost Marson a shot at playing for Team NOHA at the 2023 OHL Cup Tournament. Shortly before the mid February Team NOHA evaluation camp, Marson tore a muscle in his right hip and was advised by Pro Physio Rehab Centre in Sudbury to not participate in the Team NOHA evaluation camp.

The injury would cause Marson to miss most of the rest of the ’22-23 regular season, though he did return in time to start two of the U16 Nickel Capitals three games at the Great North’s end of season championship tournament. Despite having a good season between the pipes for the U16 Nickel Capitals, the 5-foot-11, 183 pound Marson was bypassed at the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.

Meanwhile, back home in Sault Ste. Marie, the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North U18HL underwent a coaching change following the ’22-23 season with Sean Gagnon taking over as the bench boss. With only a handful of returning players and plenty of spots to fill ahead of the ’23-24 season — including both goalie positions — Gagnon signed Marson and A.J. Borrelli as his net minders following the Jr. Greyhounds spring tryout camp.

If a previous knock on Marson was his conditioning level, the 2007 birth year goalie has undergone a total transformation over the course of this summer, Gagnon told Hockey News North.

Nick Marson

“He has lost close to 20 pounds and he looks absolutely great,” Gagnon said of Marson. “He has been riding his bike a long distance for an hour or two a day up hills … and also running stairs with (personal trainer) Mike Barbeau. Not only that, he has been working out with me at KBX (Hockey Performance Club) two to three times a week.”

Gagnon added that Marson has become more confident and is emerging from his shy, quiet ways.

“Nick’s overall confidence and demeanour have changed in an inspirational way,” Gagnon noted. “At the start of training camp, he was the introvert … a quiet kid who kept himself. But now, he has stepped into his self confidence as a person and player. He exudes, passion, athleticism and an overall great work ethic. I am so proud that he has come such a long way in such a short period of time. It is actually remarkable. I feel like it’s two totally different people I have had watching this transformation.”

Besides becoming a workout machine, Marson has stood out in summer ice sessions, according to Gagnon, who, himself, is in tip top shape as a fitness guru who will turn 50 years old next month.

“He has been a highlight reel in practice between the posts and everybody on the team has taken notice,” Gagnon relayed. “I am so proud to see that constant smile and confident walk with a leadership quality. Nick is truly showing what hard work and determination can achieve in a short amount of time.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Gagnon gushed in further praise of Marson. “I truly think he is going to be special. As for a lot of OHL teams who might have interviewed him last season, well I’ll let them know that they never met the real Nick Marson.

“But I am positive they will be hearing about him this coming season and hopefully have another chance to talk to the Nick Marson that I know,” Gagnon exclaimed.

To be sure, Gagnon knows a hockey player when he sees one, having been an overachieving one himself. The fact that Gagnon even made it to the OHL as a player let alone forged a pro career that included time in the National Hockey League is simply astounding. 

Sean Gagnon

For starters, the Sault Ste. Marie product was bypassed at the entire 1990 OHL priority selections draft, which went 24 — yes, 24 — rounds that year. A year later, at the 1991 OHL draft, Gagnon was picked — and as an 18-year old no less — in the 16th round by the Sudbury Wolves. Someone tipped off the Wolves about Gagnon who, during the 1990-1991 season, had 21 goals, 26 assists, 47 points and 218 penalty minutes in 46 games while playing defense at the house league level for the Soo Elks.

Somehow, the 18-year old Gagnon made the Wolves as a 16th round draft pick. He played most of the 1991-1992 season in the OHL with the Wolves, while also suiting up for the Sudbury Cubs of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Gagnon then began the 1992-1993 season with the Wolves before being traded to the Ottawa 67’s and then shipped to his hometown Soo Greyhounds, where he became part of the ’93 Memorial Cup championship team. Gagnon then concluded his OHL career as an overage defenseman with the Greyhounds in 1993-1994. In all, Gagnon played in 183 games over three OHL seasons and had 14 goals, 36 assists, 50 points and 433 minutes in penalties.

Not to be denied making a living from the game, Gagnon would then embark on a long and winding pro career that began in the East Coast Hockey League with the Dayton Bombers in 1994-1995. Literally fighting his way to stay in the league, Gagnon racked up 408 minutes in penalties in 76 games while finding the time to score nine goals, 26 assists, 35 points.

Another season in Dayton was followed by time in the International Hockey League and the American Hockey League before realizing the dream of all hockey dreams by playing in the NHL for both the Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators. The never-say-die Gagnon then ventured to Russia and Germany to continue a pro odyssey that finally ended in 2006. Not bad for a kid who was a 16th round pick to the OHL as an 18-year old and who eventually made it to the NHL as an un-drafted free agent.

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