A Coquitlam hockey player is finding his voice in Germany. Literally.
Mark Ledlin has been using his downtime waiting for the pro hockey season to start by competing in the German version of the reality singing show, The Voice.
The 22-year-old grad of Dr. Charles Best secondary most recently played with the Bietigheim Steelers in Germany’s second division.
But with the season on hold because of COVID-19 public health restrictions and Ledlin’s contract status for the coming campaign uncertain, instead of fretting in his apartment, the budding singer-songwriter is putting his energy into fretting his guitar. He survived three rounds of pre-castings to make it to the TV studio, where he performed Ben Platt’s “Grow As We Go” for the panel of judges.
While Ledlin didn’t advance to the next round where he would have been teamed up with a voice coach to improve his technique and presentation, he did make it to the the show’s “Comeback Stage” where he gets to try to impress the judges all over again.
Ledlin said the decision to audition for the show was kind of off-the-cuff, considering he’s a self-taught guitarist whose previous performances were mostly for family and friends as well as a series of self-produced YouTube videos shot in his apartment.
“I had nothing to lose,” he said. “I have a good profession already but I wanted to see if I was really good enough.”
Ledlin started playing music after he picked up a kids guitar in a grocery store while shopping with a buddy. His dad, Fred, also plays, but Mark got much of his instruction from online videos. Singing and songwriting followed about a year later.
But, Ledlin’s quick to add, he’s a hockey player first.
Ledlin went through the minor systems at Burnaby Winter Club and in Coquitlam before playing a season for a U18 team in Germany then another in the Pacific Junior Hockey League with the Abbotsford Pilots. He subsequently followed footsteps previously trodden by his dad, who was a pro hockey player in Germany for 13 seasons himself and is now back in Germany running a minor program in Stuttgart.
The younger Ledlin played two seasons of junior hockey with the Berlin Eisbaren Juniors, a feeder team to its first division senior team, before turning pro.
The 6 ft., 170 lb., centreman said the emphasis in German hockey on skill and skating better suited his style. He said the sport has progressed considerably in the country since his dad played and compares the junior league there to the BC Hockey League.
“You can make a great living playing overseas,” Ledlin said. “I think more American teams see the skill and ability of the leagues and now send their players over here to gain experience.”
Since turning pro, Ledlin’s played for the Hannover Indians and Herner EV 2007 in Germany’s third division as well as the EC Kassel Huskies and Bietigheim in the second tier. He has 25 points in 96 games.
Ledlin said the atmosphere of playing hockey in Germany is incomparable, as fans beat drums and chant the entire game.
“Fans over here blow the fans back home out of the water,” he said. “I’d rather play in front of 3,000 screaming fans than 10,000 fans sitting down making no noise.”
Still, singing in front of a studio audience on national television was nerve-wracking, Ledlin added.
“If you mess up on the ice, you have five other players to bail you out. But when you mess up on stage all eyes are on you.”
Ledlin said while his hockey and performing worlds exist largely independent of each other, there has been some intersection. Like when a team was honouring a retiring player but lacked a performer so he slid out onto the ice in his civvies and perched on a stool to sing John Denver’s Country Roads, which quickly became a large sing-a-long.
“You could hear the crowd take over, that was sort of the first moments when I fell in love with performing,” Ledlin said.
He added that his musical inclinations lean more towards The Lumineers than American TV lifeguard/German pop icon David Hasselhoff, noting he’d love to be able perform back home in the Lower Mainland, maybe even belt out the national anthems before a Vancouver Canucks game then suit up for the home team. But for now, he’s hopeful his added dimension will help him secure another hockey contract.
“Some guys might take me lightly, but they’ll find out that’s a mistake as I’m solid on my feet,” he said. “I think it adds another fan base for any team that I sign with.”