SIDNEY — As a French Canadian from Lewiston, Olympian speed skater Marc Pelchat said that learning to skate and play hockey at a young age was like a rite of passage. Pelchat, who has lived in Wisconsin since the mid-1990s, was inspired to come back to his home state for the 10th annual Maine Pond Hockey Classic to play on his younger cousin’s team.

“My cousin has been asking me to come out to play for a long time,” said Pelchat. “He’s always wanted to play hockey together, and he’s quite a bit younger than me, so I told him this year if we don’t do it, then pretty soon I’m going to get too old to be able to play, so we made it happen this year.”

The team, which Pelchat said is named “Worldwide Prestige,” won its first game on Saturday morning.

“They’re a good group of guys,” he said of the team. “They’ve known each other for years.”

Skating comes naturally for the former Olympian. Pelchat was on the ice before he could even form memories.

“My grandfather was in the Ice Capades,” he said. “He was big (into) figure skating, and hockey is a big thing in our lives. So I was on the ice at 2, learning how to skate. I started hockey when I was about 4 or 5, and moved on from there.”


Pelchat’s childhood was primarily spent on the ice. He skated about five days a week, so it quickly became natural.

“That kind of repetition made it pretty easy to keep moving and keep playing,” he said. “I’m sure it was harder than I remember, but in my memory it seemed easy.”

And though he would eventually compete in the 1998 and 2002 Olympic games, it wasn’t something he aspired to do.

“It was never one of those things in my head growing up,” he said. “Professional hockey was the dream, that was what pushed me and drove me every day, but nothing came of it. And speed skating was kind of there. I tried it just because I had nothing else going on. I did it for fun.”

He first attempted speed skating when he was 25 at a little rink in Massachusetts, and was outdone by a group of girls about 9 years old.

“But that day I fell in love with it,” he said with a laugh. “I needed a challenge in my life. I think hockey came pretty easy, so I don’t think I really appreciated it. I didn’t work as hard as maybe I should’ve, and speed skating was a challenge. People doubted me, probably for the first time, and I didn’t like that; I wanted to prove them wrong.”


Just two years later, Pelchat tried out for the 1994 Olympics. He didn’t make the Olympic team, but he did make the U.S. National Team, giving him a chance to train with the country’s best skaters.

“It was basically like learning how to skate all over again,” he said. “I had to get into better shape. Speed skating shape and hockey shape is different. There was a lot to learn, but I had a lot of really good people around me.”

And in 1998, Pelchat made the Olympic speed skating team.

“It was kind of a relief,” he said. “I was able to say that I wasn’t dumb to try this, because I think at 30 years old, if I didn’t make it then I wasn’t going to stay in.”

He made the team again in 2002, and participated in 2006 as an alternate. He said it was among the most profound experiences of his life.

“Even watching the Olympics today, I still get chills,” he said.


And now, at 54, Pelchat says his love of the ice hasn’t waned.

“I’ll play hockey ’til the day I die, maybe even when I die,” he laughed. “Skating is like breathing to me. It’s when I’m happiest, so I’m always going to be involved.”

Though he lives in the Midwest, Pelchat said he often comes back home to Maine to visit family.

“I think this is awesome,” he said of the Maine Pond Hockey Classic. “I love Maine, so to be able to come back here and do something like this is fun for me.”

Pelchat’s advice for anyone with dreams of competing on the national or global level is to focus more on the journey than the dream or the goal.

“Fall in love with that,” he said, “and don’t worry about where you get to. You’ll get where you’re meant to go; just keep working hard.”

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