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New Fargo Force coach Marks expects hard workers

FARGO - Surely this isn't a story former NHL tough man Andre Roy doesn't want told, but it says more about John Marks.

Marks had Roy, an NHL Draft pick, in the minors because he was sent down to do some conditioning.

The way Marks tells it, Roy really wasn't interested in doing work and Marks wasn't interested with a lazy player on his team.

"I kicked him off the team to send a message," Marks said. "Four days later, he apologized to the team in tears and two years later, he was hoisting the Stanley Cup. He was a tough kid. Tougher than whale crap."

This story is one of many that represent Marks - a man who demands hard work and professionalism yet believes in redemption.

Stories like this are what make for good writing or something funny to tell at a party.

What the story means, however, is why teams have hired Marks and that's why the Fargo Force junior hockey team hired him last week to be the team's fourth head coach in four years.

"He has a great way of getting the most out of his players," said Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, who coached with Marks at the University of North Dakota. "That's always been one of his biggest assets."

How does Marks get the most out his players? Well, this is another one of those stories that sounds good but has meaning.

Marks, in his heavy Canadian tone reminiscent of "Hockey Night in Canada" hero Don Cherry, said he dreamt of playing in the NHL but never saw it happening.

That is until he accepted an offer to play at UND and in his sophomore year was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, making him the first college player to ever be drafted in the NHL Draft's first round.

The Blackhawks threw money at Marks in an attempt for him to leave early. Marks' father threw out the notion to his son that he wasn't ready.

"I wanted to be that guy, so I worked my tail off," Marks said. "I worked construction in the summer, lifting anything because I felt I could get stronger."

Getting the most out of himself is what helped Marks enjoy a nine-year NHL career. But of course there's more to the man than just the game.

Ask his wife, Cathy, who initially joked that she and her husband have been married for "too long" before conceding they've been together for 41 years.

Cathy Marks has seen just about every phase of her husband's career from his college days, his NHL days and has been with him for most his stops as a minor league coach.

"I think the one thing with John is what you see is what you get," she said. "He's never met a stranger and he's very outgoing. Sometimes he has so much energy it wears me out."

That energy is why owners and general managers feel comfortable with Marks, said Carl Scheer, who owned two of the team's Marks coached in the minor leagues.

Scheer, who is the man that invented the Slam Dunk Contest, said marks always understood what it took to win.

But he also understood what it took to get the most out of people.

"I really couldn't have asked for a better coach," said Scheer, who works for the Charlotte Bobcats. "I've never hired anybody that came close to John. And he was just a damn good friend."

The personality and people skills are what makes Marks believe his age won't be an issue. Some have wondered if the 63-year-old Marks can handle dealing with junior players between the ages of 16-20.

Considering Marks has a 19-year-old son, he says it shouldn't be a problem. When he discusses his plan for handling a younger group, he doesn't have a story.

Instead, he has a saying that could lead to a few players telling their kids about Marks sometime in the future.

"I would say I'm old and rough, dirty and tough, too snuff and hard to bluff," Marks said. "Kids today have their cell phones, iPods, Twitter, Facebook and I could give a crap about all of that. All I want is for them to work hard on the ice, in the weight room and be good citizens in the community."

And for anyone that's not willing to buy into that, go find Andre Roy.

That's if you don't find the Kleenex first.

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