As a boy, Elks junior forward Marcus Fritel attended University of North Dakota men’s hockey games at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Those childhood memories inspired him to play hockey. Fritel started playing hockey when he was about 4 years old.
Fritel grew up watching future NHL stars Brock Boeser, T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews play for the Fighting Hawks, who were previously known as the Fighting Sioux until 2015. His grandfather, Gerome Fritel, is a goal judge at Ralph Engelstad Arena. He got to sit by the bench near stars such as Oshie and Toews.
“I got to go under the arena and see that cool stuff,” Fritel said. “One time, I got to ride on the Zamboni after one of the periods.”
Fritel said he models his style of play after Oshie, a right winger for the Washington Capitals who won the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2017-18. Oshie also played for the St. Louis Blues.
“He’s always [been] this gritty player who’s always getting in the corners and scores goals,” Fritel said. “I’d describe myself as hard-working [and] not afraid to get into corners. My offensive playing style would be getting into corners, getting the puck and then getting it to my teammates so they can score.”
In 2019-20, Fritel scored 5 goals and 14 points in 25 regular-season games. During the 2020 Section 7-2A playoffs, he played in all three of Elk River’s playoff games but did not score a point. Elks head coach Ben Gustafson said his favorite memory of Fritel is when he made a big, open-ice hit on a Grand Rapids player during the Elks 3-1 upset win over the Thunderhawks in the section semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. So far in 2020-21, Fritel has scored 4 goals and 12 points in 10 games.
“He’s not an overwhelmingly big guy,” Gustafson said. “The reaction from his teammates on the bench was awesome. It was early in the game. It was the first period. It set the tone for our players. That’s one of my best memories [of Fritel] because it had nothing to do with skill. It was Marcus buying into what we want from our players and how we want them to play and following through with it. It wasn’t a specific goal I remember. It’s how hard he plays and how much he loves the game of hockey. I always know what I’m going to get from Marcus when he comes to the rink each day.”
Outside of hockey, Fritel likes to fish, both during the winter and the summer. His favorite fish to catch are walleye. His favorite film is the 2004 Disney drama film “Miracle,” which is about the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team’s improbable run to the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, starring Kurt Russell as head coach Herb Brooks. He enjoys pop music, but he doesn’t have a favorite musician.
As part of the lettering requirement for boys hockey, players need to fulfill a certain number of community services hours, whether it be working with youth hockey players or volunteering at local charities.
Fritel said community work is important to him and is one of the first players to sign up to volunteer.
“It’s special because when we do learn to skate, you’re helping little kids learn to skate, and they need someone to look up to and help them out,” Fritel said. “Right now, I’m student coaching the Bantam-AA team helping them out and it’s been good.”
Gustafson said Fritel’s love for the game and his dedication to the sport positively impacts team chemistry and culture.
“We talk about that a lot,” Gustafson said. “The coaches do a lot of talking. They’re the leaders, but at the end of the day, it’s the kids’ team. They need to hold each other to a high standard. They set the pace. That’s what makes team sports so special. The way Marcus treats his teammates, how he holds them to a high standard, how he practices every day; it sets the standard. We're fortunate that, not only Marcus, but a lot of his teammates are the same way. As a coach, I’m blessed this year to have that in this group.”