South Tahoe’s Marino is youngest ever drafted into National Women’s Hockey League

South Lake Tahoe’s Leah Marino has become the youngest woman ever to be drafted into the National Women’s Hockey League.

The 20-year-old forward was a third round pick for the Toronto Six.

Marino, who was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, started playing hockey when she was 5-years-old. Her older brother played for a local team and her dad helped coach.

So, that’s what drew me in, it was the family aspect of it and I was super competitive,” Marino said. “So, I wanted to do anything my brother did.”

She played for the local team, the Grizzlies until she was 14-years-old. Then, she began playing women’s AAA hockey in San Jose, Calif. She played for the Junior Sharks.

Her sophomore year of high school, she moved to Seattle, Wash., where she played for a local team and lived with a billet family, which is a family that offers room and board to junior ice hockey players.

Marino spent her junior and senior years playing hockey for the North American Hockey Academy in Vermont. While there, she registered 34 goals, 30 assists, and 64 points in 139 career games.

Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh picked her up and she played forward. Marino was having a successful career at RMU until one-day, prior to her senior season, she got an unexpected call from the school that said the men’s and women’s hockey programs were being cut.

“There were a lot of emotions,” Marino said. “The first thing I did was enter the transfer portal for the NCAA so that other schools could start talking to me.”

However, Marino ran into two problems. The first was that because of COVID-19, the NCAA gave student athletes another year of eligibility, so the transfer portal was full of athletes looking to play another season.

Second, was that at RMU, Marino was part of an integrated marketing program that allowed her to get credits for her B.A. and M.B.A. at the same time. She was having a hard time finding a school that would allow her to transfer her credits.

Luckily, the Toronto Six reached out to Marino to tell her they were interested in drafting her. The NWHL was started in 2015, so playing professionally had only recently become an option Marino could consider but she told Toronto that she was interested.

Marino signed a one-year contract which starts in September. Over the summer and during her professional season, she will continue her Master’s program remotely through RMU.

Still, Marino is very excited for the next chapter of her life in Canada.

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