Over the organization’s 47-year history, the Washington Capitals have a had a number of notable players don the Red, White, and Blue (or other jersey variants) and make a mark in one way or another. One such player is Mike Marson, who in the team’s inaugural season of 1974-75, made his mark in franchise history. In this Capitals Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps takes a look back at his Capitals career.
Marson was drafted by the Caps in the second-round of the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft with the 19th overall pick, becoming the second-ever player selected by the new expansion team from Washington, having left his home and family in Scarborough, Ontario at 17-years old to play for the Sudbury Wolves of the then-Ontario Hockey Association, with whom he recorded 94 points in his second season. The expectations for Marson’s NHL career expanded when the Caps signed him to a five-year, $500,000 deal.
At the age of just 19, Marson suited up for his first NHL game in the Capitals’ inaugural contest against the New York Rangers, which they lost 6-3 at the start of what would be a dreadful 8-67-5 campaign, becoming the first black player to suit up for the team in franchise history and the second-ever in NHL history. Despite this, Marson played in 76 games, scoring 16 goals (third-most on the club) and recording 28 points, which also ranked third on the team. Despite his early success, Marson was lauded for his skating ability as a young player on an expansion club, but also faced difficulties in his first season as a black player at a time when tensions in society were still very much prevalent following the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Marson commented on the difficulties he faced to NHL.Com in 2019:
“It wasn’t just that I was a 19-year-old kid playing professional hockey,” Marson said. “I was the only kid in the world who was black and playing at that time. And with all of the different social ramifications and setups that were going on at that time in America, it was completely unheard of…It was a daily issue of things that were almost mind blowing. There were times when I was refused lodging in hotels and the team would have to stick up for me. Or entering an arena like say, Madison Square Garden, and being questioned by security staff because there were no black hockey players. So, to their credit, they were asking the right questions, only to find out that yes, I was playing for Washington. For me, this was a daily thing. You’d go to pre-board an airplane and you’re questioned – ‘Well sir, I’m sorry this is just for the hockey players.’ I dealt with this kind of business all the time”.
Marson also received death threats and scrutiny when visiting cities throughout the United States, but persevered through the turbulence to return for a second season in 1975-76, which was another difficult campaign for the Capitals and for Marson, who finished the season with just 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 57 Games Played, as he bounced between Washington and the American Hockey League, a trend that would continue for another three seasons with Washington, as he battled personal issues off the ice such as alcoholism and poor physical condition. He would play just 60 more games with the Caps, recording a meager nine points and a minus-3 rating with 119 penalty minutes, shuffling between the minors and NHL, before being traded on June 11, 1979 to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Left Wing Steve Clippingdale, who played just three games for Washington in 1979-80, recording no points.
Marson would play just three games for L.A. during the 1979-80 season, recording no points while spending the majority of the campaign with the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Dusters, with whom he recorded 15 points in 58 Games Played. Following the season, at the age of 25, Marson retired from hockey, finishing his NHL career with 196 Games Played (193 in Washington), 24 goals, and 48 points, all recorded during his time with the Capitals. Following his hockey career, Marson returned to the Toronto area, where he studied martial arts and developed a martial arts training program for young hockey players to gain strength, and improve focus and coordination, and also worked as a bus driver; former NHL forward Rick Nash is one such player who utilized the martial arts company’s services. He is now a skilled painter, and has shared his works on social media in the past.
By Michael Fleetwood
See NoVa Caps’ other Alumni Profiles HERE