Despite where he is now, Marko Sikic will tell you hockey was not his first love. “I first started playing soccer when I was younger, but my dad was a football player, so I went from soccer to football,” said Sikic. “I remember one day at home, I was watching a Penguins game; all of a sudden, I just turned to my dad and said, “I want to play hockey.”
That choice put Sikic on a minor hockey journey that took him through the Kitchener Jr. Rangers hockey program, where he played alongside his friend and future Storm teammate in Braeden Bowman. In his U16 season, he earned the honour of serving as the captain of the Jr. Rangers. As the captain, Sikic led the Jr. Rangers in scoring and tied for fifth in league with 19 goals and 30 assists in 33 games, helping Kitchener to the Alliance Hockey League U16 Championship where they fell to the Brantford 99ers.
As the 2019 OHL Priority Selection rolled around, Sikic and Bowman waited nervously. “The day before the draft, we were hanging out shooting pucks in the basement, just getting excited like, oh what if we got on the same team?” ‘
When the day arrived, Sikic relaxed early, as the Storm selected him 55th overall, but not before a technical difficulty added one last dose of tension. “I was sitting on the couch, I had family over, the feed cut out, so it said Guelph was picking, but then it cut out a bit,” said Sikic. “Then the guy says Marko Sikic is the pick for the Guelph Storm and my whole house just erupted.”
Finally able to breathe, Sikic settled in and watched as teammates and friends heard their names called, but it was a little more special when the 96th selection rolled around. “I was keeping track of everyone else, and then all of a sudden I just see my phone blowing up because Bowman had been drafted to the same team.”
Only three 2019 selections broke camp to start last season, Danny Zhilkin, Jacob Maillet and Sikic. For the young centre, to be with the team from the start was a valuable opportunity.
“It was just being able to be around the guys that we had, for practice and on the road, to be able to watch them and go up against them in practice.” said Sikic, “The big thing for me was just taking in all of the knowledge last year.”
Sikic’s rookie season started slowly on the ice, but seven games in, during what would turn out to be a 9-3 blowout win over the North Bay Battalion at the Sleeman Centre, he finally broke through.
“It was a couple of games in; we were at home against North Bay, all of the sudden a chance came, Soupy [Campbell] put the puck in deep, down to Maillet who from below the goal line saw me and I happened to put it away.”
That goal was Sikic’s only tally on the season, but he knows that it won’t be the last. “It’s all about sticking with it, just playing your game, and the time will come.”
Easily the most memorable moment for the 17-year-old, though, came on November 22, 2019, when the Storm hosted Pink in the Rink night in which his brother Luca was one of the guests of honour helping to drop the ceremonial puck. Luca has faced multiple battles with leukemia, and to have him in the rink that night was something Sikic will never forget.
“It was special,” said Sikic, “I hadn’t seen him for a while because he was in the hospital most of the time, so he couldn’t make it out to any games, but for that one, it was special to see him on the ice and there for that puck drop.”
While he waits for the upcoming year to begin, Sikic has been working to stay in shape and stay ready, “I’ve been keeping busy,” said Sikic “lately gyms and arenas have been opening up, so I have been able to get on the ice, go to the gym.”
After a slow start to his rookie season, Sikic has a simple mantra for when he next gets on to the ice in a Storm jersey, “Not to put too much pressure on myself and just go out there and show everyone what I can do.”
Hockey was not where Marko Sikic began, but once he found his passion for the game, he grabbed it and never let go. Now he is ready to bring that passion in a second season in front of the Storm faithful and to show everyone just how much he can accomplish.
By Richard Coffey, guelphstorm.com