The former NHLer who played 100 games over eight seasons in the league with four different teams and won two Stanley Cups with the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings, began his career right here in Fort St. John.
Mark Hartigan was back in town for the first time at the fifth annual Crystal Cup and he sat down with Alaska Highway News reporter Byron Hackett to reflect on his career, and some early hockey memories.
Any memories growing up playing hockey in Fort St. John?
Played with the Huskies and stuff like that. I just remember so many games in the Kids Arena, it was just a special place for me. That’s why it was kind of weird for me coming back and seeing it as something different. Just played so many games in there, it was great.
Best NHL memory?
The Stanley Cups are obviously a big one, but if you’re talking about play time… my first game was big. My first goal, those kind of memories are big. I think I got Columbus’ first shootout goal, the first guy missed and I scored the next shot.
Favourite player ever played with?
Pavel Datsuyk. The stuff that he does, he’s incredible. Knowing hockey and knowing how hard it is in certain areas, what he does with the puck in certain areas of the ice and to be able to make plays. You ask a lot of guys in the NHL they even say that too. We called him Keyser Soze, from the Usual Suspects because walking in shoes he walks all funny, and then when he gets on skates, he’s just magic man. It’s crazy.
If you could change one thing about the game now, what would it be?
They are a little bit soft with the hookings and stuff like that. They’re just calling everything. It would be nice if they could just let the guys play. Not full force clutch and grab… remember the old days, the d-men would hold you and pin you and you couldn’t get away. But I don’t want that to come back because it does take some skill out but it just seems like the refs, any little touch to the hands and it’s a penalty. Not a whole lot though, they’ve done a good job.
What advice do you have for aspiring NHL stars?
If you love the game, go play whenever you can. Play the game. Definitely get your education. I realized as I was moving forward, getting your education is huge… when it’s all done thank God I went to university and got a degree. If I could tell kids, look at university as an option if you are good enough to keep moving forward go and get an education while you are playing hockey.
What skill is most important as a young hockey player?
Skating. Skating is so important in the game now, the speed is just too fast – if you can’t keep up you won’t be able to make it. The skill and everything you have to work on, but the speed of the game, you have to be fast. You have to be able to skate nowadays or you won’t go far.