Margo shows heart on, off the ice

Queen's forward blends hockey with humanitarian work to make an impact

Margo was presented with the Douglas Murray Scholarship on Jan. 10.
Robin Kasem

When Eric Margo joined the Queen’s men’s hockey team in 2016, he never imagined he would become one of its greatest leaders athletically, academically, and in the community.

Coming in, the economics student and Vancouver, B.C. native wasn’t a top recruit. He was told he wouldn’t be guaranteed much ice time. The coaching staff were bringing in a slew of talented players, so Margo’s odds were slim. He saw it as an opportunity.

“If I was going to show up, I was going to try my hardest,” Margo said in an interview with The Journal. “I ended up playing 28 games that year, and was a starter in the U SPORTS Men’s National Quarter-Finals, which was an incredibly rewarding accomplishment.”

According to Queen's Head Coach Brett Gibson, Margo feels he wasn’t a top recruit because he didn’t play in the Canadian Hockey League prior to Queen’s like the majority of his teammates. Instead, Margo played for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, a Junior A team.

Despite this, “he was exactly what we were lacking,” said Gibson. “We targeted a player like him who had a drive that could not be measured on the score sheet at the end of a game.”

Alberni Valley Head Coach Kevin Willison agrees, citing Margo’s hustle as a factor that enabled him to make an instant impact.

“When Eric was given the opportunity to play for Alberni, it didn't take long for him to show how hard he worked each and every shift he was on the ice,” said Willison. “His teammates had respect for him as a person and a player. Every team would want a player who plays with the passion Eric does.”

His hard work paid off, but Margo’s true strength lies in his positivity, selflessness, and desire to make a difference.

One initiative he’s passionate about is the Autism Mentorship Program. Since 2017, this local not-for-profit organization has connected young people on the autism spectrum with student-athletes. Over the course of one-on-one outings, youth interact with new people, environments, and activities to improve their motor and social skills, while simultaneously forging long-lasting and meaningful friendships with their mentors.

Margo has also volunteered with the New Canadian Youth Group, where he and fellow team members provide leadership and guidance to recently-immigrated children in Kingston who come from Middle Eastern countries.

“I’m fortunate to be in the position I’m in. It’s important to go out and support others if you have the means to do so,” explains Margo. “The personal relationships I’ve formed with the youth in Kingston are so special and dear to me.”

At Queen’s, Margo is one of the team liaisons for the Varsity Leadership Council. His role is to act as a point of contact between the Council and the men’s hockey team, rallying players to get involved in community initiatives.

“If you have the privilege to represent your school, your sport, or your family, and are looked at as a role model, you should always give back to your community,” explains Gibson. “We don’t force this—it’s a choice, and Eric steps up every time [...] other players gravitate to him.”

During his time with the Bulldogs, Margo was part of the “Bulldogs in Schools” program. For four hours a day, two days a week, he provided leadership and support to students at the École Alberni Elementary School. The goal was to positively influence youth through fun activities or individual academic help.

“Eric was always the first to sign up for community appearances. He was easy to talk to and the kids looked up to him,” said Willison. “Other players wanted to be like Eric because he was fun to be around and made others feel comfortable and safe.”

Margo believes “Bulldogs in Schools” is where his passion for programs like Autism Mentorship originated.

“To be a grounding, inspiring figure in someone’s life is truly fulfilling,” he said. “To be considered a role model to someone, and seeing how I can make a difference is truly humbling.”

He’s also inspiring academically, having been recognized as an Academic All-Canadian for having over an 80 per cent average while playing for a varsity team.

In January, he was honoured as this year’s recipient of the Douglas Murray Scholarship, established by Murray and Donna Douglas to recognize academic and athletic excellence from a varsity hockey player at Queen’s.

“It was extremely humbling,” says Margo. “I've been fortunate enough to have past role models and mentors within our organization who have laid the foundation for me to follow. It's nice to be recognized for how far I've come and where I am now.”

The award also acknowledges someone who leads by example, and is a role model for his teammates.

Gaels captain Patrick Sanvido couldn’t agree more with Margo’s selection. “Eric has been the most important leader on this team. He has made my job [as captain] easier, and at times when I’ve been trying to find my way, Eric has stepped up and been the leader this team needs.”

“Eric earned this award by the way he matured and grew over his time at Queen’s,” added Gibson. “He is now mentioned in the same sentence as some of the top people to come through our program.”

Despite these successes, it hasn’t always been easy for Margo. Finding the balance between schoolwork, sleep, social life and athletics has been a challenge, as well as fighting a digestive disorder, which required multiple emergency medical visits and a complete lifestyle change.

Moreover, at five-foot-nine, he’s smaller than most competitors. There’s nothing physically imposing about him, but he’s adapted his game to his smaller size. He’s a playmaker, whose speed and aggression make him a dominant force on the ice.

“Eric was not a big player,” said Willison, “but he was a team player.”

However, what’s perhaps most striking about Margo is his passion and commitment to being a Gael. When asked what being a Gael meant to him, he quotes a standard of responsibility, academics and character—a tripartite he’s elegantly mastered.

“In the men's hockey program, we live by the motto, ‘Karma.’ For us, this is defined as the habits and actions you do when no one is looking, and how those actions will have a direct effect on the outcomes you desire in academics, athletics, and life,” explained Gibson. “Eric's actions off the ice have a direct effect on his breakout season [this year], and it shows current players the path to success.”

“What has been inspirational to me about Eric is how good of a human he is. The example he sets both on and off the ice is something I try to accomplish myself and has pushed me to be a better person,” said Sanvido. “He is the heartbeat of our team.”

After this season, Margo will graduate, leaving his career as a varsity athlete behind. When reflecting on his time at Queen’s, there are many memories that stand out, such as winning last year’s OUA Championship.

But what Margo will remember the most isn’t his awards or medals. Instead, it’s his teammates, with whom he spent countless hours on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.

“I’ll miss the team and the culture we’ve created,” Margo says. “I’ll never forget the bond we built up over the past four years.”

Margo is uncertain where his future will take him. But if one thing is clear, his impact on the program will continue to be felt, even after he’s gone. His legacy of perseverance, determination, and humility, as well as being a good student and steward of the community, won’t easily fade.

“Eric is a prime example that if you are willing to grow and be coached, you can develop into something you could never have imagined. Without [him], we would not be in a playoff spot,” says Gibson. “The trust and relationship Eric and I grew over his four years is something I will cherish.”

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