“Local Boy” Shows Right Stuff From Left Wing (Updated)


After taking a bit of a holiday break, we’re going to start 2016 out on an unusual (for us) note and write a post that doesn’t involve the stupidity, ignorance and profligacy of our local politics and government, or our local freeloaders and neighboring parasites for whom “civics” is taking more out of your fellow taxpayers’ pockets than you put in from your own.

Today we’re writing a “local boy makes good” post about a young man who, by dint of extraordinary effort applied to natural talent – and while overcoming significant adversity – has achieved his dream of doing something very difficult at a very high level.

His name is Michael Mersch, he plays professional hockey for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, and he recently scored his first NHL goal.

Having a local kid playing any professional sport is something special, given how difficult and competitive the journey to professionalism in sports is. But it’s even more of a challenge to make the NHL, where most players are still from that traditional hockey bastion of Canada – or, in recent years, from Sweden, Finland and Russia. And most of the Americans in The League seem to be from the more hockey-oriented New England states, or the likes of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

As best as we can tell, Michael is the very first Park Ridge hockey player to make the NHL, although we’re sure the Park Ridge hockey community will correct us if we’re wrong on that.

But what makes his story even more compelling is its “back story” – starting with the death of his father, also a professional hockey player who made it one level short of the NHL – when Michael was eight years old, leaving behind Michael’s mother, Nancy, and two younger children.

Fortunately, Michael’s father left him with a good amount of athleticism, and he excelled at most sports he played as a youth. But hockey was where he really stood out.

His mother allowed him to move to Michigan and train with the U.S. National Development program, learning to play the game at a level beyond what he could find here in Illinois. Besides honing his hockey skills to the point where the talented left-winger earned a scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, however, Michael worked hard enough in the classroom to complete his high school studies in only three years while earning a 3.3 GPA.

As a member of the Badger’s team he distinguished himself early enough to be drafted by the Kings in 2011. But as a fourth-round pick he chose to stay in school and work on his game at that level. He played 157 games for the Badgers, scoring 67 goals and 53 assists, developing into the kind of player who made amazing plays while earning his degree finance in the regulation four years in 2014.

His Wisconsin coach, Mike Eaves, regularly spoke of Michael’s work ethic, his focus and his mature goal-oriented approach to the game. His strength and conditioning coach, Jim Snider, called him “just a quality human being, a quality kid” who is “very genuine.” Not surprisingly, those are the kinds of characteristics needed for that long climb to a professional career.

Last year, his first as a pro, his Kings-system “farm team,” the Manchester (NH) Monarchs, won the Calder Cupt,  the minor league equivalent of the Stanley Cup. He followed that up with an outstanding performance earlier this season with the Kings’ American Hockey League club, the Ontario Reign, to earn a call-up to the big squad in December.

In an age where mere activity – and often modest activity at that – is so regularly mistaken for achievement that it is customarily rewarded with those uber-lame “participation” trophies (that delight only the non-achievers, their parents, and the trophy sellers), Michael Mersch’s journey from the Oakton Ice Center to L.A.’s Staples Center is notable in its own right.

To think he did it while skipping a grade and earning a degree from Wisconsin makes it even more notable.

So we salute Michael’s success and wish him a long and successful career of all-star performances.

Except when the Kings play the Blackhawks.

UPDATED 01.15.16.  We have been informed by one of our readers that Craig Anderson, goaltender for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, is orginally from Park Ridge. He was with the Blackhawks organization from 2001-2006.

To read or post comments, click on title.

8 comments so far

Bob, great story. I hope someone reads this and passes the message along to our future athletes to show that hard work and dedication can pay off! I am so pleased to read something in a positive note on your blog. Maybe you can start a feature where you find the good in our town since there seems to be so much negativity out there. A New Year brings new hope.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, John – it was a pleasure posting it.

There’s so much “good in our town” that we could post something on “a positive note” several times a week. But it’s the “bad” stuff that creates the “negativity” and needs changing, which is why we spend most of our time and effort writing about that “bad” stuff and about the me-first freeloaders and parasites whose entitlement mentalities promote so much of that negativity.

If it’s new hope you desire, the best start would be getting people committed to putting in, and giving back, more than they take out. Or, failing that, getting them to put in the same amount but take out less.

Wow! That’s tremendous and a great story.

Hopefully the next President of the USA will not have lived in Park Ridge!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Or played in the NHL?

Hopefully the next president of the US does not have his name plastered on hotels and casinos or have been born in the country to the north of us- one could do worse apparently than the former park ridgian referenced in one of the above comments.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One can almost always “do worse,” so that’s not a benchmark in which we take any satisfaction – especially when it comes to prsidents and presidential candidates.

Your Editor’s Note to 01.11.16 3:15 PM’s comment is spot on and speaks to the commitment, effort and sacrifice that is required for athletic achievement, academic achievement, and civic achievement. And it speaks to taking what you’re given and making the best of them rather than doing enough just to get by.

“One can almost always “do worse,” so that’s not a benchmark in which we take any satisfaction – especially when it comes to presidents and presidential candidates”.

You may not take any satisfaction in it buy is essentially the logic/defense you use in everyone of your Mel endorsements.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Did you miss the “especially when it comes to presidents and presidential candidates” part?

I am a hockey fan and played through high school, so I can appreciate ever so slightly the effort and dedication Michael Mersch has put in to get to where he is. But what impresses me even more is that he completed high school 3 years while playing in the U.S. Development program and then got through college in the standard 4 years. That speaks volumes to his maturity and his work ethic.

Great positive subject and column to start the year, thanks!

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re welcome, Ms. Sandrick, but the “subject” made it easy to do.

Craig Anderson is a goalie for the Ottawa Senators. He is from Park Ridge also.

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