By Willie T. Smith III
The Greenville News
GREENVILLE, S.C. – As he skated from one end of the ice to the other during an abbreviated Greenville Grrrowl practice in the Bi-Lo Center on Thursday morning, coach John Marks was in his element.
Although it had been only 12 hours since the team returned from a grueling five-game trip to the West Coast, he showed no ill effects from the trek while putting his team through its paces in preparation for tonight’s home game against the Gwinnett Gladiators.
Not bad for a man in his 18th season coaching professional hockey.
“When you start coaching, you do it for the love of the game,” Marks said. “I enjoy the game and everything about it. … When you get into coaching, you hope to do it at the highest level and I still believe I can. But it’s a great life. I really enjoy what I’m doing.”
Marks will coach his 1,399th game Saturday, the most of any active professional hockey coach and the eighth most in history. His record is 696-578-124 and includes two ECHL championship Kelly Cups in the trophy case.
Despite a long career, Marks has no intention of slowing down. His attention has been placed on returning the Grrrowl to a prominent spot in the ECHL after they finished with the league’s worst record a year ago.
After starting 0-5, Greenville has rallied to 11-11-3.
“He loves the game, and his love of the game gets transferred to the players,” said Grrrowl assistant general manager and assistant coach Ryan Stewart, who played under Marks. “He played in the NHL for 10 years, and that experience — all the things he’s learned from that — he gives to these players and they believe what he says because he’s lived it.”