Photo By: Robyn Iwaskiw / Brampton Beast
In Riverside, California, a community defined by sun and palm trees, ice hockey is the furthest thing from most people’s minds -- except for Beast forward Brandon Marino.
“I’ve always wanted to play hockey,” the five foot nine forward said. “At about five years old, my dad let me just go and skate around and I’ve never looked back.”
Marino set himself on a path to follow his dream of playing professional hockey. He left California and moved to Minnesota to play for the Bemidji State University team starting in 2005-06 where he worked hard to try and stand out.
As his four years went by, his numbers improved and he became a more skilled player, but making the step to the professional ranks wasn’t easy for Marino.
“My success in college wasn’t great and I didn’t have very many options,” Marino said. “I didn’t set myself up to have a ton of people knocking at my door and the opportunities I had weren't necessarily the best.”
Marino was a well-rounded college player at Bemidji State and collected 15 goals and 36 assists over 116 NCAA contests between 2005-06 and 2008-09. A three-time NCAA All-Academic Team member, a career in the pros was already a distant dream and his professional aspirations took an even bigger hit when his then agent suffered a heart attack.
“He ended up being okay but basically I got lost in paperwork so there was nobody working for me,” he said.
Shortly after, his luck started to change when he got a call from the Quad City Mallards and was offered his first pro contract ahead of the 2009-10 season.
The hard work was far from over for Brandon as he found himself in a third line role struggling to put up the points he knew he was capable of.
“It’s just a matter of playing consistent and playing the right way night in and night out.” Marino said.
It was only in his third year with Quad City where a new coach would give him a chance to play on the top line.
“This was a huge turning point in my career,” said the 29-year-old Marino. “I had contemplated not playing the year before, so to have the opportunity to keep playing was great.”
Marino accepted the challenge and made the most of his opportunity. In 2011-12 with Quad City he had his breakthrough year. He tallied a whopping 41 goals and added 49 assists for 90 points in just 65 games played.
His career took off since then and culminated with a scoring title with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets in 2013-14 with 30 goals and 58 assists for 88 points.
While most players would consider winning a scoring title in one of the world’s top hockey leagues to be the highlight of their career, Marino’s perspective is a little different. Just having the perseverance to break through and earn the chance to play professional hockey is what he considers the best moment of his career.
Since then, his career has taken off and he hasn’t looked back. Marino started the season with the Brampton Beast and later captained the team. His outstanding performances have since earned him a call-up to the Utica Comets of the AHL.
“I think that us practicing what we preach is huge,” said Marino. “If you’re going to say something, you need to do it yourself. It’s hard to say I’m the one doing it when it’s really who you’re playing with. You are only as good as your teammates.”
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