EDMONTON- The Bonnyville Pontiacs have been waiting a long time for Mark Letestu’s schedule to cooperate.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League team has patiently been waiting for the right opportunity to retire the hometown hockey star’s jersey. Before this season he was playing and living in Columbus year round for the Blue Jackets; now that he’s close to Bonnyville with the Edmonton Oilers, the club could finally make it happen.
On Saturday night, the team welcomed Letestu back home.
“It means everything to come back and be honoured, can’t quite put it into words,” Letestu said. “I’m really proud that it’s in front of my friends, family and peers.”
Letestu was playing Junior ‘B’ hockey when the Junior ‘A’ Bonnyville Pontiacs signed him before he went on to play NCAA and the NHL. He still holds the Pontiacs club record for the most career goals scored: 118.
He was a strong offensive player and also Captain of the Pontiacs for two seasons.
“I spent a lot of time here, played a lot of games, made a lot of friends, a lot of memories,” The Elk Point native recalled. “This is where my hockey journey began.”
His experiences with the Bonnyville Pontiacs clearly shaped his career. The Oilers forward has suited up for over 360 NHL games.
“Our organization is tremendously proud of everything he did as a Bonnyville Pontiac and certainly equally proud of everything he’s done as an NHL player,” said Rick Swan, Coach/G.M. of the Bonnyville Pontiacs. “For Mark to come back and see the legacy that he’s left behind for our young guys is real important to the organization.”
Letestu cares so deeply about the organization that during the NHL lockout in the 2012-13 season, he returned to the team as an Assistant Coach.
“It wasn’t easy for me, it was a lot of hard work,” Letestu recalls. “Being from here, anybody can go to wherever they want to go as long as they work hard.”
His number 11 now hangs in the rafters of the R.J. Lalonde Arena in Bonnyville symbolizing every young players dream of a great career in hockey.
with files from Quinn Phillips
© 2016 Shaw Media