WEST GOSHEN – The pads were out and masks were on for a free goaltending clinic held by former professional goalie Dave Marlin Sunday afternoon at IceLine.
It may have been a fun-filled day for the students in attendance, but it was a little bittersweet as part of the clinic was awarding three scholarships to Marlin’s summer camp in honor of Jon Whitacre, a young goaltender who perished in a plane crash last summer.
Whitacre was training to get his pilot’s license and was flying a single-engine plane when it went into a steep nose dive. Both he and the instructor, Clarence Collins, died. Whitacre was just 28.
“His father years and years ago, through a friend, kind of mentored me a lot as a business person and really helped me a lot,” Marlin said. “I met his son (Jon), who was a goalie. At the time, he was playing youth hockey and I started to work with him.”
Whitacre, who was born in Indianapolis, was coached by Marlin a few summers before going to college at Miami University.
“He came here and would train in the summers with us,” Marlin said. “I got to know him real well. We were actually talking about opening an ice training center in his area. It’s the first kid I’ve ever coached that died, so it hit a spot.”
After speaking with Whitacre’s father, they decided to start the scholarship to award goaltenders at the clinic the chance to either drastically reduce the cost of attending camp or have the whole thing paid for.
“Even though his son is no longer here, he can kind of live on,” Marlin said.
The $250 scholarships were awarded to Troy Percival and Devon Strachan, both of who have been a part of Marlin’s camp for many years.
“I’m a big person on loyalty,” Marlin said. “Call it a little bit of favoritism, but these are going to people who have been with me a long time.”
The $500 winner was decided by pulling a name out of a pile of everyone in attendance, which was roughly 80 kids.
The lucky winner was Matt McGee.
Along with that, Marlin also turned the day into a charity drive of sorts as he asked for donations of goaltender equipment to give to children in European countries who may not be able to afford it.
“I do a lot of work in Europe and we did the equipment drive and people chipped in,” he said. “I try my best to give them to kids over there who really need them. We’re talking parents who make $800 a month and buying pads for $1,000 is a pipe dream.”
It’s just another way for him to give back to the hockey community after spending many years in the game.
He started playing youth hockey with the Quakers club team and Downingtown High School, where he attended, before moving to Montreal to play Jr. A.
After graduating from college, he went pro in the ECHL, then known as the East Coast Hockey League, and spent five seasons playing with the Reading Royals, Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, Trenton Titans, Las Vegas Wranglers, Fresno Falcons and Dayton Bombers.
“I was on the original, opening day roster (for the Royals),” Marlin said. “A long time ago.”
During his time as a pro, he started coaching on the side and it soon turned into his Marlin Goaltending Academy, which started in 2004.
This upcoming summer will be the 11th time Marlin has held the camp. It’s been a long road from when he first started with just 18 kids in attendance.
“It’s grown – we’ll have over 100 goalies this summer,” Marlin said. “It’s kind of led into other things (such as) the scholarship fund.”
This isn’t the first time Marlin has held a free clinic and would like to continue being able to help young goaltenders.
“It’s just a nice chance to give back and kids a chance to come out who can’t afford it because it’s expensive,” Marlin said. “I’m hoping in 10 years, I’m still standing here in the lobby (of IceLine) giving away scholarships like this.”