After being selected 16th overall in the 2021 Draft by the Toronto Six, Leah Marino played in every game for the franchise in the PHF’s 7th Season. But as the youngest player on the team, it was an uphill battle for consistent ice-time, and she finished her rookie campaign with four points/three goals in 21 games.
As the off-season unfolded Marino, who doesn’t turn 23-years-old until next July, found herself with an opportunity to change teams and tackle a new challenge. On August 4 she signed with the Metropolitan Riveters and is now learning from some coaches and players with pretty extensive experience and resumes.
Part II: Ok here’s how you can win this puck signed by @leah_marino12 -— Dan Rice (@DRiceHockey) November 6, 2022
1) attend the @Riveters home opener at American Dream on Nov. 19.
2) find me. But I want it to be your first #PHF game.
Of my 3000+ followers I bet most of you haven’t been to a game. pic.twitter.com/fT7sJ5IvAc
Following the Riveters’ preseason finale in Connecticut I caught up with Marino to find out why she made the switch from Toronto to New Jersey, what skills she worked on this summer, and more.
The Ice Garden: How did the process unfold this summer that led you to leave the Six and sign with the Riveters?
Leah Marino: I love it in Toronto; it is a great city and they have a great team. I truly loved my time there, but there was a lot of turnover throughout the league and specifically with the staff in Toronto. So it was tricky to navigate with a new coaching staff coming in and maybe they want different things/players than the team had. I think they wanted some more veterans and I’m super young still. So once free agency started I checked around for potential landing spots and the Riveters came up a few times.
Once they moved officially to the East Rutherford area, that was a huge drawing point for me. It’s a great place to live, and during my talks with (Head Coach) Venla (Hovi) and (Associate Coach) Ivo (Mocek) I got some good vibes and it ultimately became an easy decision for me. I officially signed my contract around mid-July. I was weighing my options to see what I wanted to do and ended up driving back home to California from Toronto. It wasn’t the easiest decision to leave Toronto, but I think the best one for my growth as a player and person.
Former RMU Colonials Natalie Marcuzzi and Leah Marino skate during warmups before the Buffalo Believes Classic Outdoor game between the Toronto Six and Buffalo Beauts. #BobbyMo pic.twitter.com/37e4qNsz52— Justin Berl (@JustinBerlPhoto) February 21, 2022
TIG: The obvious connection for us to piece together is that there are some other former Toronto Six employees working for the Riveters now. Did they also play a part in luring you here?
LM: Yes, it’s nice having both (President) Digit (Murphy) and (GM) Tori (Charron) here as well. I know how they work. Digit is a mover and a shaker, she gets sh*t done. I know I’m coming to a team where she will use and give us every resource possible to help us win. More than anything it was Venla and her staff that got me here. But I love Digit and Tori. I trust Tori, we played on the same line at certain times last season (for the Six). It was also the players they had signed here, too. You step on the ice and all of a sudden you’re skating with and playing games alongside six or seven Olympians.
TIG: So during the off-season, was there anything specific you worked on after the experience of your first season as a professional?
LM: After every season I take a couple of specific things that I want to work on to grow my game, and it’s nice to learn from some veterans what they do in the summer. Some of these girls have been playing for ten more years than me and they have it dialed in, like a routine. Every summer is different, and I’ve learned to take a break for a few weeks to let my body reset first before I start training again. I tend to focus more on cardio, making sure I’m in good shape. I live in a great area in Lake Tahoe where I can be outside all the time. Hiking, biking, and cross-training are easy in an area like that. This summer, I did a lot of work on my mental training and my mental strength. That’s a huge part of the game that is often missed. That was the biggest difference for me this summer after my first year as a pro.
Honored to be playing for something bigger than myself this season! Sports Matters is a foundation that gives every kid the opportunity to play sports, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender. Thank you @DRiceHockey for supporting our league and this cause! https://t.co/8fw0ocBp2I— Leah Marino (@leah_marino12) November 6, 2022
TIG: It’s a big adjustment living in this NJ-NYC Metro area, how’s that working out for you being on a new team and living in a new home?
LM: It’s super cool. The American Dream is…it’s dangerous playing in a mall haha! We’re able to shop and spend all of our money right after practice. No, I’m just kidding! They’ve been treating us really well, the staff there is amazing and the ice is always good. For me, I mean, we live five miles from Times Square, so it’s super cool to experience that. And it’s expensive haha, oh yeah we learned that too! So far everything is great. This is an older team, for me at least.
TIG: Leah, everyone is older than you…
LM: Yeah haha, true! It’s been nice having so many others from Europe here who want to explore and experience the area and really just enjoy this and the league. I’m living with Sarah Forster (Swiss) and Reka Debasi (Hungary), so that’s been an experience, too. We’re all learning about each other’s cultures which is super cool.
Leah Marino puts Toronto back in the lead! pic.twitter.com/wA7LsoQlWZ— PHF (@PHF) November 6, 2021
TIG: Will it be weird at all for you to play vs. Toronto this season?
LM: I’m excited. Those girls are like family to me and I’m not someone who holds grudges. It will be interesting to see how we stack up against them. I’m looking forward to those games and I have a few friends from college who are on their team now. As much as it’s a reunion, I want to also prove to them where I’m at.
TIG: After spending a full season working, practicing, and playing with the Six you clearly have all the information you need to score on Elaine Chuli, right?
LM: Hahaha! I don’t know if anyone knows how to score on Chuli! But, I do have some ideas, so we’ll see.