San Antonio is not your traditional hockey city. Unlike many hockey towns, none of the team’s players come from the town, or even the state. For San Antonio Rampage forward David Marshall, Texas is far from home. Yet, the Buffalo, MN native is having the time of his life in the Lone Star State.
“I enjoy the nice weather, and not having to put a North Face jacket on just to go outside,” Marshall said. “You wear shorts a t-shirts pretty much every day of the week. It is pretty nice.
“I call my parents at home and they have to start the car for a half-hour. I’m sitting down here in shorts and a t-shirt.-.-.Sometimes it seems like you’re on vacation and with the length of the season it’s a lot easier when you can get outside. You’re not cooped up all the time.”
The warm weather is a big plus for Marshall, who has bounced between the Rampage and their CHL affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, where the game rink is literally a mile away from the US-Mexico border. Before this season, Marshall had played for a team south of the Mason-Dixon line, playing 55 games for the then-ECHL affiliated Charlotte Checkers in North Carolina.
“It’s weird when you’re watching National Geographic Border Wars and they drive by your apartment building,” he said.
The South seems to treat Marshall well. Charlotte, along with his 15 AHL games with the Lake Erie Monsters that season, treated him to the best season in his professional career. This year, while his scoring is down, he’s enjoyed success. In San Antonio, he has a +4 rating, with five goals scored and seven assists. In Rio Grande Valley, the 26-year-old was named captain this season.
“I am honored to wear the ‘C’ down there. It kind of stinks that you get that honor and you’re not there,” he said.
At the same time, San Antonio is where he wants to be. After all, Marshall is just one step away from the “big show”, the NHL. This year, Marshall has seen many of his fellow Rampage players get the call up to the NHL. Two specific callups, Greg Rallo and Bracken Kearns, have been a great influence to Marshall. Both Rallo and Kearns are 30 years old, and followed much of the same path that Marshall has, working his way up the ranks to the pinnacle of the sport. It is their experience and encouragement that keeps him going through the grind of the minors.
“They spent time in the [ECHL], now here in the AHL. You do watch that. You see these guys never gave up. Sometimes mentally it’s really tough. You want to give up, and it gets a little tiresome on the body. Having a good college education to fall back on, sometimes you wonder what you’re doing. Ever since I was three years old I’ve wanted to play in the NHL. To see these guys and to see the feeling when they came back, it makes you want to work even harder.”
Marshall pride and work ethic keeps him humble. He played his college hockey at Quinnipiac University. The school’s hockey team has only made the NCAA tournament once. They have only had one professional athlete make it to the top of their sport, Major League Baseball’s Turk Wendell. Marshall would like to be the school’s first NHL athlete.
“Every place I’ve played, I play for not just myself, but for the pride of the town, the city, the school, or even the league. I want to put Quinnipiac on the map. I’d love to be that first guy to be honored to wear that NHL sweater, and go back to school and know that I was the first one to do that. It’d be an unbelievable feeling. Same thing for my town, I know I come from a small town. It’d be a great sense of pride to have. You always want to put the people who helped you along the way on the map,” he said.
He knows he has a long way to go, and the leap from the AHL to the NHL is one of the hardest in sports. Marshall has not given up, and continues to stay positive. He knows that hard work has gotten him to this level, and will take him to the next level.
“Some people are God-gifted, and some people are unbelievable at their abilities. I just happen to get better as I get older, which is a good thing. I wouldn’t change one thing. I know when I finally do make it to that game, when I get the callup to the NHL, wherever that may be, there’ll be a lot going through my mind: the sacrifices and the appreciation you get from coming up. [My dad always told me] you’ve got to work for everything you did. I would never want anything given to me. It’s just that appreciation that when you finally get there, you’re going to know that earned it, and there’s no better feeling than that. The thing you’ve been trying for since you were three years old, and when you finally get to that it’s a surreal feeling. The great thing was that Rallo and Kearns got to feel that this year.
“I hope its a little sooner for me than 30. I just got to keep playing hard and keep my head down. Just stay humble and work hard and good things happen.”