Newfoundland Growlers forward Mark Tremaine jumped through a lot of hoops to earn his five games of ECHL experience.
Tremaine joined the Growlers in February of 2020 following the end of his collegiate season at St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) in Nova Scotia. He met the team and appeared in his first four games as a pro on the road before returning to school to finish one final week of classes toward his Education degree.
He rejoined the team at the beginning of their mid-March road trip in Brampton on March 10 and was primed and ready for a playoff push with the Growlers before the Covid-19 pandemic threw his world upside down.
“We were ready to hop on the bus in Brampton and on our way down to the states, Covid hit and that was it,” Tremaine said.
“It was a gong show. It was definitely an interesting way to start pro and made me feel like I was into that busy pro life. It was an awesome experience (playing pro), I just wish it got to go a little longer.
Tremaine re-signed with the Growlers 2020-21 ECHL season and got to work planning his first full professional season.
With the upcoming Growlers’ season slated for a January start, Tremaine doubled his remaining workload at school, and began training both on and off the ice to allow for a late-season start with Newfoundland.
“I went back to school knowing we were going to start the season late, if at all,” he said.
“I had one more year left in my Bachelor of Education. It was good for me, I was hopeful for that January start because I could knock off most of my schooling. I was just going to have a little bit left to do online and one more practicum. I was one of the few who was excited for the delay and the potential start in January.”
Unfortunately for Tremaine, that January start never came, as the ECHL’s entire North Division, Newfoundland included, elected not to participate in the 2020-21 season.
“I talked to (Growlers Head Coach John) Snowden a bit and looked at other options. I made the decision that this year was not the year. With one semester left at school, I met some awesome people there and had a really good time in my program. I was enjoying that. It wasn’t worth it for me to try to go through that same thing and figure out the logistics of how I was going to finish school with only four months left.”
Fast forward to today, Tremaine has completed the requirements for his Bachelor of Education degree, now his third parchment earned from St. FX in addition to his degrees in Nutrition and Kinetics.
But this extended ECHL offseason has given Tremaine plenty of time to fully consider his options for the upcoming season and after much deliberation, he made the tough decision to hang up the skates and retire from professional hockey.
“It’s been tough,” Tremaine admits.
“The game has been a huge part of my life forever and I always wanted that chance to play pro. For a long time over this past year, it was in my mind that five games wasn’t enough. But you get out of it for a short period of time and you realize it would be tough going into a rookie season as a 27-year-old. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was still considering my playing options. In the end, for me, the biggest thing is being involved in the game. That’s something I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”
Tremaine already has the wheels in motion for the next stop in his hockey journey, as he is set to move out west to British Columbia for a new opportunity that combines his love of education and hockey.
Even though he jokingly admits that it’s the pandemic that ended his playing career, he knows he made the most of his hockey experience, both professionally and academically, and has absolutely no regrets.
“I took that time to finish my degree and I jumped into a few things I was doing before,” Tremaine said.
“I was working as a Graduate Assistant Coach at St. FX but we didn’t get any games either. I didn’t get the full coaching experience, but I got to learn a few things about the coaching side. But it was definitely a letdown. I worked pretty hard in that first half to overload courses and stay on the ice and train. That was tough. It was one of those years, you can just roll with the punches and do what’s best for you at the time. For me, that was finishing school. I don’t have any regrets.”
Perhaps his biggest regret is not getting the opportunity to play a game in front of the Growlers’ home fans at Mile One Centre, as all five of his Growlers appearances came on the road.
“I was in Newfoundland for only a couple of days before we left,” Tremaine recalls of his brief stint on the Rock.
“And then I came back to Newfoundland once the pandemic hit as we were waiting to see what was going on. At that point, the season wasn’t cancelled, it was just postponed. A few nights later, it got cancelled and I had a few more days of just waiting for flights home. I still got to be in St. John’s for a bit. I loved it there. It was awesome, which almost made it worse, thinking I could have played here and lived here. I remember going down to Adelaide Oyster House with (James) Melindy and the guys for fish tacos. That’s one of my favourite memories. I would have liked to see that opportunity through a bit more and get the full experience. But in the end, I’m not in a bad spot over it.”