JAKE’S TAKE: A tribute to the Godfather of Marshall Hockey

This past week, the city of Marshall lost a pillar of the community in Patrick Leary, who served as the ‘Godfather of Hockey’ in helping to shape the Marshall Amateur Hockey Association into what it is today through decades of hard-work and dedication.

For many former hockey players in the area, their first introduction to the sport came from Leary during his time coaching at the mini-mite level. It was there that the assistant coach of the Marshall varsity hockey team, Scott Mellenthin, got to know Leary as he helped instill a love of the game to his two boys while serving as their coach.

“It was their introduction to the first level (of hockey) and he made it a really positive, good experience for them. Both of them (still) have hockey in their lives everyday to this day,” said Mellenthin. “Both of them are still influenced by the game and you have to have those people along the way that can keep you pushing and keep you playing and keep you excited in the sport, and he was always that way.”

Mellenthin went on to serve as an assistant coach to Leary and fondly remembers ‘The Godfather’s’ approach to managing the games to ensure that every kid had fun.

“Every game was a tie and he never let it change. Even though some of us frustrated athletes were always like ‘come on Pat somebody’s gotta win somebody’s gotta lose,’ we’d always give him a hard time about it and he was always like ‘nope I think it was a tie again today,’ said Mellenthin. “Pat always stuck to that whole theory of everybody did well and everybody was going to have a good time today and that’s the way they left.”

The result of Leary’s practices and games was always the same according to Mellenthin.

“I still always remember kids always laughing and having a great time so that was his legacy to me,” said Mellenthin. “He always made it a good place to be. I don’t remember a bad experience ever with him on the rink. He was just kind of that grandpa-like figure that always made things better for everybody.”

In addition to serving as an on-ice instructor, Leary was instrumental as a board member of MAHA where he used his legal expertise to help make some of the association’s biggest decisions.

“It was always so comforting to have him there because he was a lawyer and he helped with that aspect of it,” said Mellenthin. “Our association at the time that he came in was still having a lot of growing pains. We were trying to decide if we were going to get our own rink, if we were going to get into high school hockey and he was always so helpful in that because he always knew the right way to do things and the legal way to do things. He was always offering all of that all the time.”

For all of his contributions, Leary was elected to the Marshall Hockey Association Hall of Honor in 2013. The recognition is more than fitting, according to Mellenthin.

“I think MAHA owes him a great debt,” said Mellenthin. “He’s in the Hall of Honor and he certainly deserves it. I mean he’s just one of the founding fathers of it.”

The fruit of Leary’s labor was realized that same year when the Marshall hockey team made its first-ever appearance at the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament with a 3-2 victory over Hutchinson in the section finals. After the game was over, Mellenthin reminisced about the pioneers like Leary who made it all possible.

“When we made it that night, those are the kind of people that I thought about the most when the game was over were the ones who had made the longtime contributions to the program and how proud they would be of it,” said Mellenthin. “I just remember standing on the rink before we got that section final trophy and just thinking about those kinds of guys and I think I tried to tell him that the next time that I saw him. He knew it, but he wouldn’t take any credit for it. Of course that’s the way he was. He was just very self-less and didn’t think he had a part of it, but he did.”

Through the many years of hard work to get to that point, one constant was the dedication and pride displayed by Leary for the Marshall hockey program.

“We were proud of his affiliation with Marshall Hockey and he was too. He wore it proudly on his sleeve,” said Mellenthin. “He just used his abilities to the best for Marshall Hockey and we all benefitted from it. I think a lot of all the good things that have happened I think he had a say in or he had a part in almost all of them. We’ll always owe that to him.”