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Albuquerque native Gretz taking game to next level after signing pro deal to play in Germany

 

Marcus Gretz of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

After spending his junior hockey days in the Ontario Hockey League, Albuquerque native Marcus Gretz is moving overseas to play pro hockey in Germany.

Gretz had been with the Flint Firebirds since being selected by the club in the second round (23rd overall) of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection. He spent time in Germany last season with the Hannover Indians when the OHL canceled its season due to the pandemic and had started the current season in Flint before signing with Lippe-Hockey-Hamm of Germany3.

“We would like to thank Marcus for everything he has given to the Firebirds organization,” Firebirds president of hockey operations Terry Christensen said. “He is the perfect example of a leader, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for all of his hard work and contributions to the Firebirds hockey club these last five years.”

Gretz played 125 career games for the Firebirds, which is the fourth-most in franchise history.

The 20-year-old said playing last season in Germany opened some doors to return this season.

“I think it goes back to the COVID year when I came over and was able to see how good the hockey over here is,” said Gretz. “I made some super close friends that I stayed in contact with and then my now-coach Jeff Job reached out to me at the beginning of the year, and I remained in close contact with him. The decision to leave Flint was one I had thought very deeply about. It’s been my home for the last five years and I’m so thankful for every moment there as I really grew from a boy to a young man. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the amazing people I met, but at the end of the day, this was my last year there and this opportunity to come play pro and be able to see all of my aunts, uncles and cousins was one I couldn’t refuse.

“As far as my time in Flint and what I’ll remember the most, I think just the little things, going to the movies, hanging out with the boys after practice, long bus rides that felt like they’d never end, those are friendships that last a lifetime, and I couldn’t have been more thankful to have had the teammates I had.”

Another positive to going back to Germany was that Gretz is going in knowing a bit more what to expect.

“Last time I came, I was coming off nine months of no hockey and could never get fully comfortable as we got COVID my first month here,” Gretz said. “This time I’m here, in the best shape I’ve ever been in, healthiest mental state, and I’m coming with an attitude to learn as much as I can and take in this experience. I know the game’s quicker and this time around I’m a lot more comfortable on the big ice.

“I just want to learn and continue to develop as much as I can. This is pro hockey now, and every day is a chance to get better and come with a pro mindset.”

Back home, Gretz played for the New Mexico Scorpions, New Mexico Renegades and Team New Mexico, and getting started in hockey happened on a whim.

“I remember we went to the local rink, Blades (now the McDermott Athletic Center), just to see what it was, and we saw hockey and I said I wanted to play and from there on, it all started,” said Gretz. “In New Mexico, the team would change names from Scorpions to the Renegades and even Team New Mexico. My most memorable coach was Todd Ganshaw. He always let me play up on the team and show what I could do with the older kids.”

Gretz then left New Mexico at the age of nine to play AAA hockey in Colorado for the Colorado Evolution and then the esteemed Colorado Thunderbirds, where he played in the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in 2013-14, before moving to the Detroit suburbs.

“I’ve had so many influences in my life, but it’s hard to say the biggest,” said Gretz. “Every year, I have faced a new challenge and I’ve learned to surround myself with people who teach me valuable lessons, both on and off the ice. I’ve been through a lot as a kid, and I just think those things correlate because you can’t be a good person on the ice without being a good person off the ice.”

Photo/Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

— Matt Mackinder

(January 7, 2022)


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