Gwinnett Gladiators rookie forward Marshall Everson works against Reading’s Brett Flemming during a game this season. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
Rookie forward Marshall Everson is among the top scorers for the Gwinnett Gladiators this season and was red-hot in February with 10 points in 11 games.
In this installment of “Getting to Know ...,” Everson talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including picking Harvard over his hometown Gophers, staying to play high school hockey for Minnesota powerhouse Edina and his linguistic skills.
CT: What is your hometown like?
ME: Edina? It’s hockey crazy. They actually just won the state championship for the second straight year. I don’t even know what that takes them to now.
CT: I think it’s 12. I know it’s a state record. They’ve won more than anyone else.
ME: Growing up we played a lot of outdoor hockey. There are probably at least 12 outdoor rinks that are run by the city. So that’s where a lot of my friends come from, the rinks back home. Most of my best friends to this day are the guys I played all the way from 5, 6 years old through high school with.
It’s just a suburb of Minneapolis. A nice area to grow up in. Really centered around the neighborhoods and the kind of area where your buddies are the guys you grew up on a block with.
CT: I flew into Minneapolis in December and could see all the rinks set up outside. Is there anything like that elsewhere?
ME: I haven’t seen it. Even when I was in Massachusetts for college. There are outdoor rinks, but there are nowhere near the quantity. I mean, I had one three blocks away, four blocks away, five blocks away. It took no time at all. Spend all day there. My mom would give me pizza money and that was my meal. We’d go down there from 10 a.m. until dinner.
CT: How early are you able to play outside?
ME: It depends now. Because we actually have a pond in our backyard that my dad freezes over. The rinks probably don’t get going until December. But sometimes by dad can have it ready in late November. It depends how risky you are.
CT: You opted to stay and play high school hockey instead of going away for juniors or the national development program?
ME: It’s a very high level and they do a really good job. They created this elite league, probably six or seven years before I got into high school. But it really did a good job keeping some of the top players in the state for the high school season.
I think right when I was becoming a senior is when we started seeing more and more guys leaving, especially from the smaller towns. Even now it’s probably significantly worse than when I was in high school. Which is unfortunate because I think Minnesota high school hockey is something special that I’ll never forget.
But I had three coaches that had NHL experience. In any given year in my high school, we had at least five or six forwards going Division I and throw in three or four defensemen. I got a chance to play with my younger brother, which was special, and going into my last couple of years, we had a really strong team.
We wanted a state championship and kind of made a decision to stay as a group. We had five or six guys that really decided we wanted to go for this and we didn’t want to leave for junior.
CT: Sports Illustrated did an article on it, right?
ME: I think they were expecting us to go a little farther than we did. We lost in the first round. But that was definitely something cool. It was a special group of guys.
CT: Did they win the year after you graduated?
ME: Yep. They won the year after with my brother as one of the captains. So that was great and tough to swallow at the same time. I couldn’t be happier for my brother and it’s good for the town. We needed one. We hadn’t had one since ’97 or something. It was a big drought for us. People were starting to wonder.
CT: Did you play any other sports in high school?
ME: I played golf for a few years. And I played baseball and football growing up.
CT: How did your college decision-making process go? Ivy League schools don’t give athletic scholarships.
ME: There were definitely opportunities to look at places closer to home — and it would have been the cheaper option. The Ivy League is need-based scholarships, so they do help you out. They don’t want any kid not to be able to attend their school because of money. There’s just no added incentive for athletics.
Growing up it had always been Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota. As a Twin Cities kid, you grew up going to Gopher games. But from a fairly young age, maybe 12 or 13, I’d seen Harvard play and I knew the reputation of the school. We visited Boston as a family once or twice and I really loved it. So by the time I was 15 or 16, I was really concentrating on at least trying to get an opportunity to play at Harvard.
So it didn’t come out of nowhere. Once I talked with the coaching staff, I thought that opportunity combined with the academics was just too much to pass up. Even for the Golden Gophers.
CT: Did you finish your degree?
ME: I finished last spring with a degree in government and a minor in economics.
CT: So if hockey doesn’t pan out …
ME: Well, it’s always over at some point. And I think that was the strongest selling point I got from my parents and the staff there. It’s a great degree to have down the road.
CT: Your brother followed your there, too, right?
ME: He was a little harder to convince. I committed in between my sophomore and junior year. As soon as I got the offer. Max, (laughing) kept them waiting. He was really torn between a couple of other schools. The Minnesota card was really hard for him to turn down. But he eventually followed me and I got to play a couple of years with him in high school and college.
CT: Looking back at your college career, was there a biggest or best game?
ME: We played at Fenway and at the Beanpot. Those are special games. But really the games I remember are playing Cornell, home and away.
But if I had to go one game, we beat Yale my junior year in double overtime in playoffs. That was the second of a three-game series and we actually won the series the next day. But it was double overtime, season on the line. It was arguably the most close-knit group of guys we had while I was at college. Packed stands. The Harvard-Yale rivalry, which is older than any of us can imagine.
CT: You signed with the Gladiators about 10 games into the season. What had you been doing from the time school ended until then?
ME: After my senior season, I was with (AHL) Milwaukee for a weekend, but didn’t play. Then I was with Peoria for a weekend and got to play a couple of games. It was tough with school. The class schedule meant I could only leave on the weekends. But I was lucky enough to at least get a taste of the pro hockey life. I’m really thankful for both those organizations letting me spend the weekend.
In the summer I signed with Orlando and had an opportunity to go with the Minnesota Wild to Traverse City for the rookie prospect tournament. I went to the Iowa Wild’s training camp and had a good experience there. Then I went to Orlando and I was released on the roster deadline.
So by the time I was released, there wasn’t a lot of openings. I waited around for close to a month before I got the opportunity to come here. I was just back home, working out, trying to be ready for the opportunity if I got one.
CT: You got here and started scoring right away.
ME: I was a little surprised (by Orlando’s decision). I thought I played well in training camp, but you still look at it and they have a lot of good players there. They’re double affiliated, too, so that makes it tough.
CT: You scored your first pro goal in your first home game? Was it a good one?
ME: Uh, it was a 2-on-1. I got a little bit outside, to be honest and I just shot it on net. Coach had been harping on the bench about getting pucks on net. I can’t really say I knew exactly where it was going. It probably wasn’t the greatest show I’ve ever put on net, but I think it was quick enough and it might have fooled him a little bit.
But it was the first one and good to get one on the board quick.
CT: You had a good consistent pace going and missed about 10 games right in the heart of the season. But it didn’t seem to interrupt your flow too much once you got back?
ME: Yeah, it was frustrating getting hurt at that point in the season. I thought that’s when I was really starting to play well and contribute every shift.
The only thing is, being able to watch that game for that whole time, you pick up on things you can’t see from ice level. I got to see and learn a lot about the timing and spacing that I didn’t notice just being thrown into game play. That helped me have a strong start coming off the injury.
And I worked a lot here with (athletic trainer) Brett Allen. He did a good job getting me in shape and making sure my arm was good. So by the time I hit games, I felt comfortable. I didn’t feel like a fish out of water.
CT: Was going to see pro games a big deal when you were a growing up?
ME: When I was younger, the Gophers were the biggest thing in town. Then the Wild came in in ’01 so I was about 11 years old. My family was part of a group that split up season tickets so I’d go see five or six games a year. But even early on in the Wild’s existence, the Gophers were still a bigger ticket. It was ’02-03 when the Gophers won back-to-back national championships. So in some cases, they might have fielded a better lineup (laughing). But the Wild were a fun team to watch grow.
CT: How do you chose to pass the time on these long bus rides?
ME: I split it up between reading, sleeping and watching movies.
CT: Is there any kind of music you listen to most often?
ME: I’m a big country guy and classic rock and roll. AC/DC is still my favorite band.
CT: Any TV shows you try not to miss?
ME: I was huge into “The Office” and now “The Following.”
CT: Any favorite vacation spots?
ME: We grew up going to the Fort Meyers area a lot. Most spring breaks. That was always great.
Then my mom’s family is from the Amalfi coast in Italy. It’s a vacation/family visit. It’s almost like a second home at times.
CT: How’s your Italian?
ME: Mine’s terrible. My mom and my brother are fluent. But I haven’t been back for probably two or three years so mine is non-existent.