Blast from the Past – Mark DeSantisPosted: 15/10/2013
With the announcement that well known junior hockey side Brampton Battalion were leaving their home to move to North Bay, Ontario, a group quickly moved to put a Central Hockey League franchise into Brampton’s Powerade Centre. They were named the Brampton Beast and quickly announced the team’s first head coach. A minor league journeyman defenceman, Mark DeSantis was born in the town and had played in minor leagues all over the continent including a one year stint under Doug Sheppard as a Basingstoke Bison in 2006/07. DeSantis took time out from the Beast’s training camp to speak to Banners On The Wall about his time in Hampshire, his career and his newest venture.
You’re a Brampton boy who left to play hockey, travelled across North America and to Europe and now you’re back at the head of this new chapter for hockey in your hometown with the Beast. Has your life come full circle in some respects or is that too cliché?
What an exciting opportunity for me and my family to come home. It’s funny what life throws at you and there’s a reason for everything. I look forward to the challenge.
You spent 4 years in the OHL with Cornwall and Newmarket. Was the plan always to go pro? Was there any disappointment at not being drafted?
Growing up as a kid, I always dreamt of playing in the NHL. After my draft years passed me by, I thought about going to school and playing whilst at school. When my last season of junior was completed I was receiving calls about going pro. When NHL teams were calling, I did not hesitate for one second about keeping the dream alive. I was never disappointed about not being drafted.
You spent 16 years as a pro tallying 1200+ regular season games. You never won a championship as a player but certainly saw some sights. What moments stand out for you?
Signing an NHL contract and attending 3 NHL training camps. I am disappointed that I never won a championship as a player, I played in 3 championship finals but I’m very proud of the fact that I played as long as I did. I would not change it for anything.
After a 4 year stint in Amarillo, you left for your one season in Europe with Basingstoke. What led you to sign with the Bison?
Blair Manning called me and asked what I was doing for the upcoming season and convinced me to play overseas. I always wanted to experience it so I signed with Basingstoke.
You played on a Bison side with some really talented players like Blair Manning as well as real fan favourites like Brad Cruikshank, Curtis Cruickshank and Greg Owen. What was it like being a Bison that season?
It was a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed my time there. I met a lot of fantastic people and enjoyed my time travelling and seeing that part of the world.
You left to join Port Huron after your sole excursion overseas. Was it time to go home or did you want to come back?
My dad had just retired from work and hadn’t seen me play a lot during my pro career. Port Huron was close to home. I always thought about coming back.
When did you know it was time to hang up th
I was training 3 times as hard to keep up physically. Players were getting stronger and faster. I had an opportunity to get into coaching during my last season and I moved on from playing but still had the chance to be part of the game I loved so much.
You retired in 2009 and went behind the bench full time first as an assistant in Rapid City before getting your 1st head coaching job with Fayetteville. What was that moment like when you realised that you were now “the man” in charge?
My time in Rapid City. I had a great mentor in Joe Ferras (DeSantis was Ferras’ assistant at Rapid City). Opportunities to be a head coach were calling so I took that chance. It has worked out great and hopefully can continue to be great.
How did the Brampton job come about?
There was an article in the local paper about Brampton getting a pro
hockey team. I contacted the commissioner of the league to put me in touch of who was in charge of the team. I interviewed twice on the phone then flew home (from Fayetteville where DeSantis was coach of the SPHL’s FireAntz) to do a face to face interview. I was offered the job 2 hours later.
The Beast are now part of an affiliation agreement with Tampa Bay and Syracuse which means some prospects will be at the Powerade Centre this season. As a coach knowing those sets of eyes are on you, how does that feel?
It will be a great opportunity for the chance of hopefully one of these players to play in the NHL and knowing I had a part in it in some way.
Finally, any final message for the Bison fans?
I loved my time there in Basingstoke. I met some great people and had a great experience. I would like to say hello to all and GO BISON! Thanks very much.
Keep up with Mark exploits (and those of his assistant coach, former Bison captain Brent Hughes) at http://www.bramptonbeast.com/home/ We wish Mark and the Beast all the best for their inaugural season.