photo courtesy of ESP1000
With all of his past hard work to build on, Mark Huber continues his hockey career his way with Iowa State University's Cyclones. The Dodge Center, MN native has played 33 games as a sophomore with 9 goals and 10 assists. He is building off of 3 seasons with the Lakers starting in 2007, playing 147 games with 43 goals and 48 assists. He was team captain his second and third seasons as well as earning the Leadership Award in 2007 and 2008, MVP in 2008 and Laker of the Year in 2009. These awards were given to a player who never gave up and was surrounded by a support system of family, friends, and coaches.
Most of Mark's influence to play hockey comes from his mother's side. Her family lived in White Bear Lake, MN and all four of her brothers played college hockey. Holidays were spent playing hockey with cousins. He played for a County Team since Triton High School was too small to have one.
After graduating high school in 2007 Mark wanted to take his game to the next level but he wasn't sure what was offered. "I didn't know a lot [in the beginning] about the process of playing junior hockey, then going to college," Mark recalls. That summer was spent finding out what organization was right for him. "Every weekend I was trying out for a new team. It was a crazy summer, let's just say that." He tried out for 6 teams (3 in the NAHL, 3 in the MnJHL) and was cut from all of them. Finally an opportunity to play led to a trip to Las Vegas, a try-out with the Stars in the Western States Hockey League and a spot on their roster. As he was packing his car to drive to Nevada, the team folded because of a lack of finances. Mark's previous contact with Ice Hawks Head Coach Nick Fatis led to a 3-day tryout with then Lakers coach Stu Ronsburg. Fatis knew the Lakers were looking for more players to round out their roster and Mark got his second chance.
Mark enjoyed his time with the Lakers: practice in the morning, work for a couple of hours and then movies at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. He had fun bonding with his teammates but regrets not taking more college classes in those three years. There are a few highlights from his first junior goal to a 2007 road trip to St. Louis, Missouri to play in a weekend series. Nonetheless he remembers the 2009 season home opener against the Ice Hawks the most. "In the previous 2 seasons we had never beaten the Ice Hawks. I always wanted to because they cut me, plus I lived so close to Rochester in high school and knew they were always the team to beat. That game we beat them at their home opener 9-1."
Junior hockey is where Mark learned to use his hard work as an advantage. "I'm not the most skilled guy. If I was, I would have made those teams I got cut from. You can make up for it. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. Some natural players are lazy because they don't have to work. You have to make up for it if you don't have the pure talent. People will notice your hard work and the fact you are paying a price - Jamie Huffman [of the Lakers] impressed that on me." He credits support from the Lakers organization who stuck by him for three years and Jamie Huffman, the coach in the 2009-10 season, saying Huffman was always there for the players and helped them any way he could. He also credits his parents and two older brothers for their support. "My family gave me a lot of support to follow my dreams."
Mark's next goal was to play college hockey. Two colleges were interested in 2009 after recruiters saw him at the MnJHL Christmas Showcase. He eventually went with St. Mary's University on an academic scholarship but soon realized his expectations weren't met. "At the time I thought they were recruiting me for a Varsity spot but actually had recruited 50 players for 28 spots. It was disheartening. I still had to try out for the team and I didn't know that coming in." Mark made the 28-man roster but was placed on the Junior Varsity. Having never dressed or played on the Varsity he ended the season playing 13 games on Junior Varsity with 11 points. "I loved the campus and the classroom atmosphere, but I didn't want to be a JV player for four years."
After he completed his freshman year with St. Mary's, Mark made the decision to move from D-III NCAA to D-I ACHA hockey at Iowa State University. It proved to be the best thing he could have done for his college career. "It wasn't a hard decision to make," he says. "It was all about finding my fit." He moved from regular scratches early on in the season to the first line, landing power plays with the Cyclones. Mark says the biggest benefit of Iowa State comes from its size - there are more opportunities. "We're playing 50 games at Iowa State instead of 25 games and the stands are filled with fans at every home game. I travel a lot more than I did with St. Mary's." His experience is that players in club hockey have skills comparable to the D-III level. "People don't know a lot about ACHA hockey and how much talent there is in this league."
As Mark continues to get his education the future of his playing career is always on his mind. "Every player goes through this. Is it worth it? Should I get my education and be done with hockey? Is it going to pay off in the end? What next? I want to try and play as long as I can. Maybe when I graduate from college I'll make a decision. I just don't think [at this point] I'm ready to be done." After college he's considering continuing into professional hockey, preferably in a European League.
Mark's attitude is his biggest strength. He believes that every player, including himself, if they have the drive, can find the right team. "You can't control everything, except working hard and practicing everyday. You can only control you." His thought process before every game stems from one word: "Sacrifice. It brings everything to the table. To make a pass or block a shot. Sacrifice includes all aspects to play at the best level. You are fighting for your job. Someone else is going to work harder to take your spot away. Someone is working to get your job. Produce, show up. At the end of the day you're always playing for your teammates. Obviously you want to win, help the coaches, get a good reputation, but coaches aren't playing, you are. You are, your boys, your teammates, those are the guys you are really playing for. It's about your friends and teammates sitting in the locker room next to you. They are a lot like your family. You're with them 24/7 - why wouldn't you want to sacrifice for them? Fulfill a good team."
Mark wants to graduate with a major in Marketing and Management and hopes to continue working in hockey on the business end. In addition to attending MN Hockey camps during the summer, Mark's free time is spent at the movies, hanging out with friends, playing sports and travelling. See Bobby Hart's article in 2010 of Mark's acceptance to St. Mary's, his Iowa State University Player Profile, or the news release announcing his player of the week honor.