In the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Mike Marson was the
perfect combination of scoring toughness and leadership, registering 94 points
as captain of the 1973-74 Sudbury Wolves. The Capitals used the first pick in
the second round of the 1974 amateur draft to select him, but he came into
camp overweight (according to the team) and his first NHL training camp was
not going so well. The Capitals were just about ready to send him down to their
AHL team, the Richmond Robins on Oct. 3, when they moved him from his usual
left wing to the right side to play with Tommy Williams and Mike Bloom in an
exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings. He scored three goals in that
game and would go on to play the whole year in Washington.
By his own account, he was not ready for the NHL, but the Capitals could not afford to have him playing in the minors. They just didn't have the talent on the rest of the team to give him the training in the minors that he needed. Not only did Mike have to deal with the pressure of being a 19-year old playing against the best players in the world, he was also the first black NHL player in almost 14 years, playing in a city with a long history of racial unrest. As a junior in Ontario, he had never faced the hatred that he would have to deal with on a daily basis in the NHL. He didn't just face it at the rink, but in restaurants, hotels, and everywhere he went.
He finished third on the team in scoring in 1974-75, but never really developed into the player he could have been. "There was just so much garbage I had to deal with that I just wasn't used to. The accumulation of all that garbage just made me uneasy - uncomfortable all the time. How can you perform at your best as a professional athlete if you're uncomfortable all the time? You can't. It's impossible" - Mike Marson in "Breaking The Ice" by Cecil Harris