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About Utah: Olympic dreams led to marriage for athlete Marc Seliger, volunteer Maureen Heagany

Published: Sunday, Feb. 26 2012 10:00 p.m. MST

Marc and Maureen Seliger stand on their porch in South Jordan. The couple met during the 2002 Olympics.

Lee Benson, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — As we bid adieu to the 10-year celebration remembering the Salt Lake Olympics of 2002, a love story for the road …

Marc Seliger was the goalie for the German National Hockey Team. Maureen Heagany was a volunteer at the coffee house in the Athlete's Village at the University of Utah. One morning, early in the Games, Maureen served Marc his coffee.

Marc didn't say a word. Two of his teammates did all the talking, a memory Maureen smiles at now because of the three hockey players, Marc was the one who could speak English. He'd taken seven years of it in school and augmented that with a year's immersion in American English in 1997 when he played in Maine for the farm club of the Washington Capitols, the NHL team that drafted him in the 10th round.

But after that one year in the States he returned to Germany, preferring to play professionally in his homeland. He'd started playing ice hockey when he was 4, following in the footsteps of his older brother. Marc proved to be a wunderkind. Sharp reflexes. Quick moves. Steel nerves. Eventually he emerged as the best goalie in the country. He'd played in five world championships for the national team by the time his first Olympics came along in 2002.

He was the property of the Nuremberg Ice Tigers at the time. The German pro league suspended play for a week and a half, figuring that's all the time it would take for Germany to be eliminated against Canada, the USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic — the really big boys of hockey.

But in their Olympic opener, the Germans defeated heavily favored Slovakia 3-0. Then came wins over Austria and Latvia. Before they knew it, they were in the final round, where they nearly beat Team Canada, the eventual gold medalist, in a 3-2 match.

During all this, Marc would rise every morning in the Athlete's Village and mosey into the coffee shop, order his coffee, plop down on a sofa and read "Lord of the Rings" in German.

He'd noticed Maureen, a pretty brunette, that first time he saw her. She'd moved to Utah from Michigan when she was 12, the second youngest of Joe and Arleigh Heagany's seven children. The family settled in Provo, and after Maureen graduated from Timpview High she enrolled at BYU. She was studying recreation management and volunteered for the Olympics because she thought it would help her major. She imagined she'd be shoveling snow. Instead she was a barista in the coffeehouse, working the morning shift.

By the second time they met, Marc spoke. He mentioned he liked the background music that was playing. Maureen responded by saying she'd burn him a disc (back in the day when people burned discs). When she gave him the CD a few days later, she wrote her email address on the disc. Over the course of the next week and a half they got to know each other a bit. One morning they sat on the porch of the coffeehouse, a converted Fort Douglas officer's house, and had their picture taken together.

Then, just like that, the United States ended Germany's Olympics with a 5-0 victory in the quarterfinals. With the pro league back home impatient for its best players to return, the team was on a plane the next morning.

Back in Germany, when Marc played his custom-made CD, he noticed Maureen's address and sent her an email. She emailed back with her phone number. Not long after that, her cellphone rang with an enormous string of numbers on the screen. Having no idea who that could be, she answered. "Hi," said Marc.

One thing led to another. Marc told Maureen that after the season ended, he planned to return to Salt Lake and see the sights. Maybe Maureen could take a day and show him around.

She surprised him at the airport when he landed. They spent that day he'd talked about. Then they spent another. Then they got in Maureen's car and drove to California to visit her brother in Oakland.

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