February 17, 2016

Mark Heaslip

Mark Heaslip had an infectiously positive and happy attitude that was always appreciated by his coaches and teammates.

How positive? He was once called up from the minor leagues to play a game for the New York Rangers. By all reports he played very well in that game, which is made even more amazing given that his home back in Duluth, Minnesota had burned down the night before.

That was just one of the many ups and downs in the life of Mark Heaslip. He was a popular yet fringe NHL player for 117 games, 69 of which came with Los Angeles during the 1978-79 season. A year later he was out of hockey for good.

Heaslip always beat the odds. He made his high school team as a walk on. He went on to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (studying political science) without a scholarship. He was never drafted by a NHL team, yet he still made it to the big leagues in his seven year professional career.

"I knew my role. I knew I was not a superstar.  I knew I had to do certain things well if I wanted to play. I knew if I did not do these things consistently that there would not be a place for me on the team," he said.

"I was a hard working player. I think it kind of amazes me how far I got just on my hard work."

Heaslip's hardest work was off the ice. He got into a lot of odd jobs and a lot of trouble. By that time he was really struggling with alcoholism and cocaine addiction, but he managed to get himself clean and healthy by 1984.

He began working for a local television station while designing and selling his own clothing.  But, with the help of former Rangers teammate Phil Esposito, he found his real calling in helping others who faced chemical dependency issues like himself. He frequently spoke at events about his experiences while also working at the treatment center that help him clean up.

"Sobriety is the number on priority in my life. If I stay sober, there isn't a whole that I can't do," he said.

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