By Bart Wright
The Greenville News
GREENVILLE, S.C. – It will go mostly unnoticed to the outside world, but John Marks is used to that.
Thanks to the National Hockey League lockout, few outside his peers have taken notice of the remarkable season the Greenville coach put together in 2004-05. When they turn out the lights on the big show, the minor leagues tend to go dark, as well.
If the NHL were up and running, chances are Marks would have at least been mentioned on national broadcasts, but people in the game know and in the long run, that’s all that really matters.
“I’m very proud of this season,” the 57-year-old coach said before his Grrrowl sent Pensacola home 4-0 Tuesday night to take a first-round playoff series victory at the Bi-Lo Center. “I like it here, a lot, but at the same time I have to say I’d love to have the opportunity to do what I do at the highest level; I don’t know anyone who does this for a living that wouldn’t like that chance.”
After a season-long shutdown of the game, discussions between players and management still haven’t resulted in a new contract and each passing day increases the likelihood that a reformed NHL might include — initially at least — a lot of players now in the minors.
Maybe even coaches.
If it comes to that, who would have a better resume than Marks, who won his 700th game this season and has coached more professional games than any active coach?
Oh yeah, and his team just completed a record improvement in the ECHL. The Grrrowl finished the regular season 39-28-5 for 83 points, precisely 50 better than last year’s 14-53-5 team that accumulated 33 points. The 50-point improvement matched the league record achieved by Knoxville in the 1993-94 season.
Maybe with the game more evident at the highest level, the Grrrowl would have received more support this season, even with ownership struggles that virtually eliminated any local promotion of the team. Still, this is a good level of hockey from a team that hasn’t been appreciated nearly enough.