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Morning News

Hockey: Not Just a Game for the Young

Aired February 16, 2001 - 9:48 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Laura Okmin joins with us a story now about why some people just don't have to grow up.

LAURA OKMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, isn't that the truth? Good inspiration. Good theme this morning, Daryn.

The hockey world's greatest comeback player of the year has to be Mario Lemieux, right? I mean, "Super" Mario returned after taking a 3 1/2-year break. It's impressive. But what about Dana Marek? He went from being a freshman at Division One powerhouse Boston University to a sophomore at Division Three UMass Boston, after taking off only 30 years. And like Lemieux, he had an assist on his first shift back.

Meet Dana Marek, hockey's other super comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): This wasn't something Dana Marek had been secretly planning all these years. It never even occurred to him that someday he would be 47 years old and playing college hockey again.

DANA MAREK, 47-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE HOCKEY PLAYER: Boy, am I old!

The first time that I put the sweater on in 28 years, the kids actually clapped. And that's something that I'll remember the rest of my life. That was a very, very special moment.

OKMIN: Call it fate. A full-time student with a full-time job, Marek had missed several classes while attending to his father at a nearby hospital. He came to campus one day to ask his adviser about taking a leave of absence. But she wasn't in her office.

MAREK: So I said: I'll kill an hour, walk around the campus, see what's going on. And like any old guy that once played a game, walk down to the hockey rink, and see what's going.

KENNY GOETZ, UMASS-BOSTON TEAMMATE: He came out with jeans and an old white helmet on. And he was -- you know, he was skating around. He was playing.

MAREK: Just shooting on one of the goalies, minding my own business. And in about 10 minutes, the kids said: "Geez, we are going to scrimmage? Do you want to scrimmage with us?" OKMIN: Marek enjoyed himself so much that he returned for more. Eventually, head coach Joe Mallen discovered a way to help the Beacons, who had only seven forwards on their roster in the fall semester.

JOE MALLEN, HOCKEY COACH, UMASS BOSTON: We were almost in jeopardy of forfeiting some games if we didn't have players. And so he was accepted right in.

MAREK: Here we go, coach, right in the middle.

MALLEN: He calls it a biological experiment. I call it kind of a tactical experiment.

MAREK: The first day was tough. The second day was even tougher. The third day, a Friday, I could not even lift my legs after practice to undo my skates. And I sat by my locker and said, "I don't know, you know, if this can be done."

OKMIN: But Marek has suited up for every game this season. And while his playing time has dwindled from minimal to rare as more players have become available, Marek's role as teammate and mentor remains vital.

GOETZ: Every team is looking for a different advantage, you know: goal scorers, role players. And we have one advantage that no hockey team has. And that is a 47-year-old hockey player. He brings experience and leadership to the locker room.

MAREK: He always goes outside in. I don't know why, you know. And, yes, just take him.

If it wasn't for the mix of young men in that locker room downstairs, and if it wasn't for the genuine caring and commitment that Coach Mallen has given me, this would have never worked.

Let's go, Scully (ph). Yes!

This isn't about the game so much as it is about life. And anyone can do it. If you have a dream, if you have a goal -- I call this hockey season a gift, because that's truly what it is -- go for it and try it.

(CHEERING)

GOETZ: The biggest lesson I learned is no matter how old you are, no matter what your goals are, you can achieve them. And, you know, I credit Dana 100 percent for changing my perspective on that.

MAREK: Unbelievable. That was great. That was great.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OKMIN: Isn't that a great story? It's very inspirational for all of us who say: I want to go back to school. I want to a different kind of path career-wise. You are never too old. KAGAN: You're never too old to go out for hockey.

OKMIN: Yes, that's for sure.

KAGAN: I'll keep that in mind.

(LAUGHTER)

KAGAN: Laura, thank you so much.

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