By Craig Eagles, Teacher, Rogers TV Host & Colour Analyst QMJHL CSR Scout & Writer #InsideTheQ Writer Maritime NHLer’s For Kids
Hockey dreams are never black and white.
Like so many other young Maritimers, Jesse Marquis dreamed of one day playing in the National Hockey League. The dream of making it as a player was unattainable. Nevertheless, Marquis will skate on NHL ice.
From Bouctouche, NB to the bright lights of the NHL, Jesse Marquis’ passion for the game has never wavered.
In only eight short years since dawning the stripes Marquis will be skating along side the world’s best. His shocking ascension through the officiating ranks to hockey’s highest level is truly remarkable.
You Have To Earn It
Jesse Marquis’ journey into officiating all started on a suggestion made by his parents. From a young age Guy and Karen Marquis taught their son to be hard working, independent and financially self-sufficient.
“They always promoted independence and wanted me to go make my own money from a young age,” Marquis said. “During the summer I mowed lawns to get some money, and in the winters I wouldn’t do anything.”
By the winter months the young entrepreneur’s personal cash was limited.
“I was always asking them for money by the time winter rolled around, so my parents were like so ‘why don’t you try refereeing, it will give you some change and money.’”
Marquis’ refereeing career started in the frigid rinks of Northern New Brunswick.
“I had no clue what I was doing,” confessed Marquis of his first foray into officiating. “I never really thought about officiating before and didn’t really understand the responsibility that came with it.”
Officiating quickly became a past time for then 16-year-old Marquis who was still lacing them up as a player. “On my days off from playing, I would try to get a few games refereeing and it just continued from there,” explained Marquis.
Maurice Dallaire could be first person that may have unlocked Jesse Marquis’ hidden passion for officiating. Dallaire was the refereeing chief for the Kent County area at the time when Marquis was making his way through the ranks. His ability to identify Marquis’ talent and awareness on the ice as an official is definitely a contributing factor to Marquis’ early success.
“Maurice was first person that really put my name out there as an official,” Marquis said. “He was the first person that approached Tim Skinner and gave him my name.”
Skinner, a long time American Hockey League linesman and local refereeing chief in the Greater Moncton area recognized the young referees talents almost most instantly and started to give Marquis more high profile games. At that point, Marquis was still balancing a hectic playing schedule while trying to get as many games as he could has an official.
Marquis loved playing the game of hockey, but officiating was starting to become a hidden passion. Convinced by a group of friends to keep playing, he suited up for the better part of three seasons with the Moncton Jr. B Vito’s. The balancing act wouldn’t last long.
Marquis decided to quit the game; ironically, that’s when his big break happened.
He had been heavily scouted by the Quebec Major Hockey League during that time by another American Hockey League officiating legend Larry “Magic” Christian.
“Jesse is one of the best skaters I have seen in my nineteen year career in the QMJHL,” said Christian, a Supervisor of Officials for the QMJHL. “Jesse has great fitness and understands the game, I scouted him through Don Koharski’s school as a prospect for the QMJHL and the POE program here in New Brunswick.”
Word was quick to get out at that point that the kid from Boutouche, New Brunswick, was the real deal.
“I attended Don Koharski’s camp three years in a row that really helped me develop my basic skills and positioning,” Marquis explained.
Being surrounded by other Maritime based NHL officials really opened Marquis’ eyes to a possible career in officiating.
“I’ve always looked up to Jean Hebert and Ghislain Hebert, Matt MacPherson and Jon McIssac because I was around them when I was attending Koho’s camp. I just found it so cool that they did it for a living,” Marquis said. “They travel from rink to rink and work in the best league in the world, I found it just amazing.”
Marquis will never forget a phone call from QMJHL’s Director of Officiating Richard Trottier.
“When Richard called me to offer me a job in the ‘Q’, he said, ‘I’m offering you this, but you have to make a decision, are you going to decide to play your last year in junior or are you going to quit and just focus on officiating?’
“To be honest, I couldn’t answer him quicker – Yup, I’ll do it, I’ll quit. The hell with playing; I’ll officiate,” Marquis said.
“When I got hired on to the Quebec League I felt like it was the NHL of the Maritimes.”
“At that point it turned into a dream of making it to the NHL. I didn’t really think that the NHL would have been attainable, but it was always my dream,” confessed Marquis.
“It’s really cool and amazing to know that I was doing something right on the ice that got people’s attention to push me to get to the next level,” Marquis added.
If you thought Marquis’ fast track to the QMJHL was special, his journey to pro ranks made that look like a ten-year career.
“I thought that I would be working the ‘Q’ for while, but two years later I was asked to work professional hockey in the East Coast League and American Hockey League.”
“Jesse’s dedication and work ethic both on and off the ice are the main traits that attracted the NHL scouts,” Tim Skinner said of his former protégé.
“Once they got a chance to know Jesse and see his solid character and his drive for success, it was just a matter of time before they hired him,” Skinner added.
“I am so pleased for Jesse not just because he received an NHL contract, but because he has showed any young kid in New Brunswick that through dedication and drive your dreams can come true.”
“I couldn’t be happier for Jesse and I can’t wait to watch him do his first NHL regular season game,” Skinner said proudly.
Marquis’ fast track to the NHL has even caught the twenty-four year old off guard.
“To be honest, even when I went up to Toronto on June 25thto sign my contract, it still hadn’t settled in.”
“Camp starts Saturday, I’m guessing once I get all my equipment and see the jersey with my number on it, it will sink in more then,” said the soft-spoken official.
Marquis’ warp speed journey throughout hockey’s various ranks hasn’t affected his love for the game and those that helped him a long the way.
The significance of his journey isn’t lost on him and though it may have been a whirlwind, Marquis is still thankful for all those that have helped him at every level.
“There are so many people that have helped me grow as an official from this area,” Marquis said.
“From Don Koharski, to Donny Gaudet, Guy Pellerin to Ricky Gaudet you name it, even guys in the ‘Q’ like Mike MacDonnell, Jay Doiron, Justin Burchill, Christian Boudreau, Mario Maillet and Matt Hicks, they all helped me grow into the official I am today,” Marquis said proudly.
“Jesse’s skating ability and fitness are second to none, it has allowed him to get into better positions faster and more consistently than your average official, said Marquis’ friend and QMJHL linesman Matt Hicks. “Because of those two key components Jesse was able to be fast tracked and succeed throughout that process.”
“I worked Jesse’s first major junior playoff game,” added the veteran QMJHL linesman, “and because of his speed he was able to get to places no other linesmen could.”
Marquis prides himself on his fitness regime and understands all to well the rigors of the occupation having split time in ECHL and AHL a season ago.
“It’s a lot of work, I’m in the gym five to seven days a week,” confessed Marquis who has been spending the last few weeks training with Hicks on a local football field.
“Hicks and I have been working on our feet, running laps and sprinting with a parachute, plus I worked three weeks at Koho’s Camp this year. Helping the kids and giving back at the camp was great, I took ten minutes on my edges and corners after they left the ice, its non-stop,” Marquis admitted. “At the end of the day you’ve got to think that you are going to be sharing the ice with Sidney Crosbys and Connor McDavids that are quick, and that you have to be able to follow the play and game the best you can, it’s not a given you have to put that work in.”
Marquis will get the chance to share the ice with some of his role models during the upcoming preseason and possible regular season.
“I’m really looking forward to be working some preseason games with Jean, Matt, Jon and Ghislain, they are all really supportive, it’s just great to go into camp with guys that you know and are familiar with,” Marquis said.
Marquis signed a 40/40 contact so he will have forty stops in NHL cities this season.
As for game number one. “To be honest, I’m going to think about not messing up,” Marquis said jokingly. “I’m going to try to do the best I can out there, and make the right call.”
“I know for the first five minutes and even before the game, before we jump on and do our hot laps that I’m going to be shaking, really nervous and feel nauseous, but at the same time I’m going to be really excited and eager to get out there to work in the best league in the world,” confessed Marquis.
When asked if he would be thinking about all the people that have helped him a long his journey to NHL, Marquis answered instantly. “All the time. I’m always thinking about the guys I’ve worked with,” confessed an emotional Marquis. “Those guys have always stepped up to help me out.”
Marquis realizes how difficult officiating can be, but is quick to offer up advice to other aspiring officials in the game.
“You have to work hard, you never know who’s in the rink watching. There are no nights off and it’s not just what you do on the ice it’s off the ice that counts,” Marquis suggests. “You have to be determined and you have to have the will power, it’s a lifestyle.”
“You have to be in the gym and work hard in everything you do,” confessed Marquis. “It’s a tough path to go down, it’s not always the easiest way, but if you want something you have to work for it.”
Hockey dreams aren’t always black and white, but sometimes they are fast-tracked.
Yours in hockey, Craig